Friday, 1 July 2016

SAF Day 2016 Message and Interview with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

- SAF sets up high readiness unit in the face of new threats

- SAF to improve capabilities with new armoured fighting vehicles

- SAF must do more with less; Defence Minister says SAF will overcome manpower issues through technology

- Pre-enlistees entering national service from 2017 can indicate vocation of choice

NS pre-enlistees will get to indicate vocation choice
But operational needs will still be main consideration in postings: Defence Minister
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2016

Young men starting their national service from the end of next year will for the first time get to indicate which vocations they want to serve in. Their choices will be taken into account after they are posted to the the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), police or civil defence.

While operational needs will still be the main consideration, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the move will better match an enlistee's capability with his role in NS, and encourage him to take ownership of his responsibilities.

Speaking in his annual interview ahead of today's SAF Day, he said: "Obviously, operational requirements will come first but if their vocations, their aptitudes match their indicated interest, we will try to give as many as possible.

"The caveat is that the entirety of the unit's mission and capability must not be compromised. But I think that will increase ownership and match capability with the duties of full-time NSmen."

From the end of this year, pre-enlistees will be given a range of vocations to choose from as part of their screening at the Central Manpower Base. Details of more than 30 vocations in the various forces will be put online later this year.

This matching of interest to vocation was one of 30 recommendations made by the Committee To Strengthen NS in 2014. So far, 24 recommendations have been implemented, including free insurance coverage for all servicemen, which was announced last week.

But even as the country continues to recognise its national servicemen, Dr Ng highlighted how the SAF has to do more with less, and fight smart, given an expected one-third reduction in manpower by 2030.

He announced a raft of new high-tech additions, including an armoured fighting vehicle with laser-assisted guns for the army, unmanned navy vehicles as a countermeasure to sea mines, and the transformation of Changi Air Base into a smart one with more automation.

Dr Ng also said the SAF is strengthening its anti-terrorism capabilities with a new unit: the Army Deployment Force (ADF). It will be able to respond swiftly to terrorist attacks alongside the Home Team.

"The basic task for the ADF is the rapid response element, because speed is important in counter-terrorism... You have to respond in minutes," said Dr Ng, who also announced a new Cyber Security Operations Centre 2.0.

The initiative aims to beef up the Defence Ministry's arsenal against cyberthreats by using advanced content scanning and data analytics. To attract top engineering and science talent, his ministry will be offering a new Defence Science scholarship, which will be on the same level as the prestigious SAF scholarship.

These efforts are all aimed at improving the SAF, said Dr Ng, so that "we are always prepared, ready to meet today's challenges, as well as adapt to new challenges on the horizon, and even unseen ones".

Army Deployment Force: SAF to fight terror with rapid response
MINDEF's new unit 'will work with MHA to counter terrorist threats on multiple fronts'
By Jeremy Koh, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2016

Rapid response - that will be the defining feature of the Singapore Armed Forces' new anti-terrorist unit.

The Army Deployment Force (ADF), which will be officially formed on July 12, will be the size of a battalion and comprise highly trained soldiers with niche capabilities, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. A typical battalion consists of 400 to 500 personnel.

The ADF can also be activated to help in civil emergencies and disaster relief missions overseas.

At a media interview ahead of today's SAF Day, Dr Ng emphasised that the unit will be in a "high readiness state".

"The basic task for the ADF is the rapid response element, because speed is important in counter-terrorism. It's really not quite like conventional missions where you have time... This you have to respond in minutes."

He said regulars will be trained and assigned to the ADF. He added that selected NS units will be trained to assist the new unit.

When asked how the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) would work with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on counter-terrorism with the ADF's introduction, Dr Ng replied that MHA continues to be the primary responder for terrorist threats. However, he added: "There may be situations where the SAF may be called in. And it may not be sequentially, it may be at the same time, because you are able to assess the threat that you have multiple areas of attack.

"Our responsibility is to be ready... And if we need (to do) more, we will do more."

The Defence Science and Technology Agency will also set up the National Security Centre to help better co-ordinate counter-terrorism efforts and responses by the Defence and Home ministries.

Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and deputy chairman of the Defence and Foreign Affairs GPC, told The Straits Times that having more forces ready to respond to a terrorist attack "is always a good thing".

Referring to the Nov 13 Paris attacks last year, he highlighted how terrorists hit multiple civilian targets almost simultaneously - killing 130 people and leaving hundreds wounded.

He said: "We see in the case of France, for example, (that) there are always multiple attacks, multiples sites, within short spans of time. So it is good that we have that various layers of teams ready to be deployed."

Next-gen weapon packs more punch
The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2016

The next generation Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV), to be commissioned by the Singapore army by 2019, will be a key component of its mechanised forces.

It will replace the Ultra M113 Armoured Fighting Vehicle, a staple since the early 1970s.

To communicate with soldiers on the older version, troops had to shout, gesture or use voice communication systems.

The new vehicle will be connected to the Army Battle Internet, a network connecting all computer systems used by army forces.

The new vehicle will also provide enhanced firepower and protection with its higher-calibre gun, digital control system and laser rangefinder to pinpoint targets.

The new AFV also offers better protection.

In the Ultra M113, part of the vehicle commander's body was exposed. In the new AFV, he sits within the vehicle, which can hold between three and 11 people.

It weighs 29 tonnes, has a maximum speed of 70kmh and can travel 500km on a full tank of fuel.

Keen on joint patrols
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2016

Singapore, as part of its commitment to more collaboration in the fight against terrorism, is keen to support joint patrols in the Sulu Sea, which have been proposed by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"If Singapore is invited to join - they have made indications that they would like Singapore to join - Singapore will support. It is to our interest," said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in his media interview on Tuesday, ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day, adding that Singapore will step up on efforts to share information and resources against terror in the region.

Defence ministers of the three countries had agreed to work together on marine patrols on the sidelines of of the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting in Laos in May.

This is in response to heightened threats in the Sulu Sea, south-west of the Philippines, where militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have kidnapped sailors.

Dr Ng added that he has offered the use of the navy's Information Fusion Centre as a resource to these patrols.

Such collaborations are necessary as the problem of terrorism is too big to handle alone. "The problem is too big, too diverse. You can have provocateurs from many, many countries and you need the cooperation from the international community," Dr Ng said.

He also spoke on territorial tensions in the South China Sea, ahead of an expected July 12 ruling by an international tribunal on a dispute between the Philippines and China.

He stressed that any problems could affect the South China Sea's role as an international waterway and urged ASEAN and China to build trust between each other. He said Singapore was ready to help facilitate exchanges between ASEAN and the Chinese military.


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