The Little Red Dot
1. The "Little Red Dot" is an epithet for the nation of Singapore that used to refer to Singapore in a disparaging manner by former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie. But has come to be used by Singaporean citizens with pride despite the country's limited size. And because Singapore resides in a region with larger and ambitious neighbours (with Indonesia and Malaysia being over 2,680 and 470 times bigger than Singapore, respectively) that can be suddenly hostile. Singaporeans understand that peace we enjoy must be defended. That is why the mission of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is to enhance Singapore's peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory over the aggressor. As we say in Singapore, when life gives you lemons, Singaporeans strive to be the best lemonade supplier in the region.
2. The opening sequence of the Normandy landing in movies like Steven Spielberg's 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan
, encourage the layman to think of in terms of ‘old school’ or World War II versions of amphibious warfare (where troops storm the beaches in a hail of bullets and artillery fire) or in a force-able entry scenario for the US Marines. In contemporary amphibious warfare, sending Singaporean forces to storm ashore against heavily defended beaches with defensive beach obstacles and layered defences is a fools errant, as the SAF lacks this force-able entry capability. Rather, amphibious operations, conducted by the SAF, seek to exploit the element of surprise by applying the combat power, precisely at a location and time that is deemed advantageous by higher command.
3. Amphibious ships provide Singapore with a basic capability to conduct raids, demonstrations and withdrawals from the sea, in lightly or unopposed landings from Endurance Class vessels stationed about 3 km to 8 km from shore. Given that 25% of beaches can take landing craft, 75% of coastlines are accessible by hovercraft and 95% can be accessed by small boats, the operational art of contemporary amphibious warfare prefer to land Singapore's forces on beaches in areas with little or no opposition. Therefore, Singapore's four Endurance Class vessels provide the SAF with a capability to conduct manoeuvre warfare in the littorals of the near abroad, in a synchronised manner while utilising its air and naval power to destroy or disrupt enemy C4I, lines of communications, and logistics. This capability enables the Singapore Army's combined arms divisions to be relevant and decisive in meeting a range of threats within Singapore's threat matrix.
4. Singapore is a maritime nation and the Singapore Navy provides with a crucial capability to secure Singapore's Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). SLOCs are crucial to a port city connected to the maritime commerce of all of the Indo-Pacific region (i.e. the Malacca and Singapore Straits). More than 3,000 vessels call Singapore every week. Dedicated intra-Asia services connect Singapore to many of the smaller ports, whereas the big vessels on the services from North America and Europe represent the main connections not only to the markets outside Asia; but also to all the major ports in Asia (i.e. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Busan, and Tokyo). To secure our SLOCs, the Singapore Navy has conducted a spectrum of operations that includes:-
See this short video on how the Singapore Navy defends Singapore everyday as backgrounder : http://youtu.be/7LzwBEIFu_8
(i) participating in an international search and recover operations for a missing airliner -- a frigate (with an organic sikorsky S-70B), a missile corvette and the MV Swift Rescue were deployed to assist in the search and locate operations in the South China Sea for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on 8 March 2014 (until the Malaysians acting on new radar and satellite data, terminated the search in that area and relocated the search to other areas). In another unfortunate search and recover mission, on 14 January 2015, the Singapore Navy finds fuselage of crashed AirAsia jet flight QZ8501
(ii) conducting ongoing counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden under CTF-151, in Operation Blue Sapphire. Singaporean boarding teams from the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) have faced off with pirates and sank their attack skiffs in Operation Blue Sapphire (see: http://youtu.be/MpFPwXcENIE
). In April 2016, Singapore Takes Over Command of Multinational Counter-Piracy Task Force for Fourth Time
(iii) conducting disaster relief operations in the near abroad after the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, in Operation Flying Eagle. RSS Endurance was the first foreign navy ship to re-establish a life-line to Meulaboh (a coastal town in West Sumatra that was previously completely cut off after the tsunami). Singapore's contributions to Indonesia included the deployment of three Endurance Class LPDs, eight CH-47 Chinooks and four Super Pumas, six C-130s, two F-50s, a mobile air traffic control tower (see this video: http://youtu.be/jnZVrs5Sjp4
). Following from that experience, Singapore in 2014 stood-up the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre
5. While the Singapore Army continues to train for jungle warfare and urban warfare, it must also adapt to the three megatrends identified by David Kilcullen, where he sees the future of warfare against non-state actors as urban, littoral and connected (see his 2012 article on: "The City as a System: Future Conflict and Urban Resilience
"). The data suggest that this is the environment in which future conflict will occur. This is not a futuristic prediction, but rather a projection of trends that are evident now, and an assessment of their effects on cities as they exist today. The future is hybrid and irregular conflict combining elements of crime, urban unrest, insurgency, terrorism, and state-sponsored asymmetric warfare — more Mumbai in India, Mogadishu in Somalia, Zamboanga in Philippines, and Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica. The SAF understands that if they are to shape events on land, they need the ability to project power into the connected coastal urban areas (i.e. people using cell-phones for data access in coastal cities) and in the littoral domain surrounding growing ASEAN cities. Richard J. Norton's 2003 Naval War College article, "Feral Cities
" has a concept that is useful. A “feral city” is defined by Dr. Norton as:-
"A metropolis with a population of more than a million people in a state the government of which has lost the ability to maintain the rule of law within the city’s boundaries yet remains a functioning actor in the greater international system."
6. In 2004 Singapore's defence budget was SGD8.6 billion and in 2013, it was SGD12.2 billion. In other words, defence spending has kept pace more or less with inflation and going forward that Singapore's defence spending to continue on this trajectory that more or less keeps pace with inflation, over the long term. According to IHS Janes' estimates, the RSAF receives 53% of the SAF's total procurement budget (with the navy and army receiving 26% and 19%).
Singapore increases defence budget 6.4% to SGD13.97 billion
By Jon Grevatt, Bangkok and Craig Caffrey,
London - IHS Jane's Defence Industry
28 March 2016 -- Singapore has announced a 2016 defence budget of SGD13.97 billion (USD10.2 billion): an increase of 6.4% over 2015. The rate of growth is the fastest seen in the country since 2011 with increases having averaged around 3.5% annually over the past five years.
The 2016 budget will also see defence expenditure increase as a proportion of GDP for the second consecutive year, rising to 3.4%. Defence spending had been in gradual decline as a percentage of GDP since 2009 until the approval of the 2015 budget.
Budgetary documents published on 24 March show that the allocation includes SGD13.30 billion (or 95% of the defence budget) for operating expenses with the remaining SGD671 million for development expenditure...
7. Speaking at the Committee of Supply or Budget Debate on 7 Apr, Dr Ng told Parliament that although there was no specific intelligence of any imminent plot against Singapore, intelligence agencies had indicated that almost all cities, including Singapore, were targets. But as today’s threats continue to evolve, so too must the SAF adapt, said Dr Ng. "Studying what happened in Paris, Jakarta, and Brussels, the SAF will enhance its incident response." Terrorism was a challenge that the Ministry of Defence and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had identified a decade ago. We should also take note of the fact that Singapore's defence budget has increased, in response to an urgent need to recapitalise certain categories of ageing defence assets - such as the retirement or upcoming end of life of the following:
(1) the last F-5 squadron (replaced with a 2nd squadron of F-15SGs) and lethality upgrades to the F-16C/Ds (with AESA radar and new weapons),
(2) the 4 KC-135R (to be replaced with 6 A-330 MRTT),
(3) the 40 Searcher UAVs (replaced with the Heron-1 and Hermes 450 UAVs),
(4) the fleet of V-200s (replaced with the Protected Response Vehicle - Renault Higuard),
(5) the older suite of air defence radars, including the FPS-117A (replaced by the ELM-2084 Multi Mission Radar, the existing Giraffe AMB, the 200 SHIKRA radar and the future Ticom 55 aerostat); which will provide a extremely high resolution air picture for Singapore's air defenders,
(6) the older ground based air defence missiles, including the I-Hawk missiles (replaced with the Spyder air defence missile firing units and the ASTER 30),
(7) new helicopters to replace the old fleets of Super Puma and some of the CH-47D Chinook helicopters,
(8) old AEVs, ARVs and VLBs like the M728 AEVs (replaced with the AEV, known as the Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak), the old ARVs (replaced with the Buffel Armoured Recovery Vehicle), and the old M60 based VLBs (replaced with the Biber Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge),
(9) old land-rover vehicles (replaced with the Protected Combat Support Vehicle - URO VAMTAC and the Ford 550 ambulances),
(10) older sat com 3 tonner (replaced with the MAN 5 Ton Very Small Aperture SAT Comm),
(11) the 11 Fearless Class Vessels (to be replaced with 8 LMVs),
(12) the last 2 Challenger Class submarines (to be replaced with 2 Type-218SGs),
(13) the replacement for the AMX-13S1 and so on (too lazy to list further).
8. Winston Churchill described the British defeat at Singapore in 1942 as 'The greatest disaster ever to befall British arms'. On 15 February 1942, the British Imperial garrison of Singapore, surrendered to a numerically smaller Japanese assault force. The British military intelligence officer Hughes-Wilson attributes the intelligence effort at Singapore as having four fatal flaws as follows:
(i) underestimation of the enemy;
(ii) fragmentation of effort;
(iii) lack of resources; and
(iv) no influence at the highest levels of command and control.
9. Learning from the above past mistakes, Singapore understands that to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed. Good intelligence is of crucial importance to a small state, like Singapore. The security problems faced by Singapore go beyond the traditional need for intelligence on state actors from the past. Today's threats faced are multi-faceted, trans-national and complex. Singapore understands the need to have the ability to gather information to conduct counter-terrorism operations against both state and non-state actors. Singapore is not shy about learning from others, and as events unfold, someone in Singapore, is observing, gathering intelligence, acting on that intelligence, and learning from that incident.
(i) To tackle the threat of ISIS at the source, the SAF has extended its deployment of an Imagery Analysis Team (IAT) in the Middle-East, Dr Ng announced. Last year, the SAF deployed a KC-135R tanker to support air-to-air refuelling operations, and an IAT as part of the multi-national coalition effort to combat ISIS. The IAT was tasked to monitor suspected terrorist facilities and activities to help the coalition in disrupting supply chains that feed networks in the region. Dr Ng noted that coalition commanders had commended the IAT's efforts, and asked the SAF to continue their deployment.
(ii) The SAF is also stepping up intelligence-sharing with Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States, and Australia. This will provide early warning for Singapore, allowing authorities to apprehend terrorist suspects that intend to do the country harm.
(iii) To strengthen practical cooperation, Singapore will co-organise the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Maritime Security and Counter-Terrorism Exercise with Brunei, Australia and New Zealand in May 2016.
(iv) To guard against cyber-attacks, the SAF will double the number of cyber defence personnel in the Cyber Defence Operations Hub by 2020, he announced. These cyber defence personnel will use more artificial intelligence and big data analytics to better detect and respond to cyber threats. The SAF will also shore up the security of its network and hardware, and build greater security design into software design.
10. In any strategy for defending Singapore, we must embrace apparently contradictory notions (at least on the surface) - as we need to engage difficult partners and yet deter difficult partners at the same time. A sophisticated understanding of security strategy needs to deal with the idea of politik
as it is used in the German tradition.