Ng Eng Hen: SAF must do more with less
Defence Minister says SAF will overcome manpower issues through technology
With the help of technology, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) can do more with less, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told the media in his annual SAF Day interview on Tuesday.
That is the direction the Army will take to overcome manpower issues in the future, he said.
By 2030, Mr Ng expects the SAF will face a one-third reduction in manpower.
Mr Ng said: "(Do more with less) means that the SAF has to work smart, and not only hard. You will have to rely on and use technology as a critical enabler to be able to respond adequately.
"But beyond technology, as always, with the people you have to have a common purpose, commitment and strong public support."
To help increase ownership in National Service, Mr Ng announced that by end-2016, pre-enlistees can indicate their interest in which vocation they wish to join in the SAF or the Home Team during their medical check-up.
More details will be released later.
Mr Ng also revealed a slew of new developments and capabilities the SAF have been working on - new and upgraded vehicles, ships and helicopters. (See report on facing page.)
Chief among them is a new rapid response counter-terrorism unit, called the Army Deployment Force, to support the special forces and the Home Team if a terrorist-related incident happens here.
Here are some of the questions that were asked during the interview:
Will the SAF be too over-reliant on technology as a strategy to do more with less?
It does not mean that you rely on technology and you have less human initiative, or you have less passion, or you can remove the man in the loop...
(Technology) does not negate, let alone reduce the need for commitment from NS soldiers, support from the public, or reduce the need for leadership and camaraderie. It is not mutually exclusive. In fact, it reinforces that. And what we are doing is multiplying our efforts.
Can you share more about the replacement of Super Pumas, Chinooks and Landing Ship Tanks?
We have a fairly robust evaluation mechanism which has worked quite well... Basically, what we have when we have a new platform, we have to ensure that it fulfils the core functions and is at the right price.
Price effectiveness - not always the cheapest; but for what it can do, it must be of sensible value compared to other contenders. And a third component, which people usually forget and dismiss, that it has to be integrated with the rest of the fleet.
Does vocation matching give hope to Singaporeans, including those from the minority races, who want to become pilots, naval officers, or armour officers?
Not only minority (races)… all races. I mean, we have a lot of people who want to be pilots. Well, it is always an aspiration for all of us to give hope to as many people as possible.
I get appeals from NSmen of all races, not only between vocations but between forces... Somebody who, for example, is trained in ITE and polytechnic in a particular field, say aerospace, and for his vocation, he chooses to be an air force technician.
If you can match it, well, that is wonderful. Everybody benefits, (it is a) win-win.
NEXT-GENERATION ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLE (AFV)
The AFV is a locally developed armoured infantry carrier that will replace the ageing Ultra M113 AFV fleet. It boasts enhanced situational awareness, firepower, and mobility compared to its predecessor. Development started in 2006 and it is now its final prototype stage.
Expected deployment: 2019
PROTECTED COMBAT SUPPORT VEHICLE (PCSV)
A new class of support vehicles meant to support motorised infantry and combat service units. The PCSV can carry about 4,000kg and can be configured to carry mortar systems, casualty stations or supplies. It has a remote-controlled machine gun.
Expected deployment: 2017
LITTORAL MISSION VESSEL (LMV)
LMVs are ships that operate close to shore. They are meant to replace the long-serving Patrol Vessels. They deliver quicker and greater firepower than existing patrol vessels, and require a smaller crew.
Expected deployment: Two were launched last year and one this year. All eight are expected to be fully operational in 2020.
JOINT MULTI-MISSION SHIP
Not much is known about this ship, which will be replacing the two-decade-old Landing Ship Tanks (LST), except that it will be bigger and have more carrying capacity.
Expected deployment: Unknown
UNMANNED MINE CLEARING VESSELS
The Navy is working towards a fleet of completely autonomous mine-clearing systems to detect, dispose of, or detonate mines.
Expected deployment: Unknown
TYPE 218SG SUBMARINE
Two new Type 218SG submarines will replace the Challenger-class submarines and will enhance the fleet's capabilities.
Expected deployment: Beyond 2020
ULTRA M113 AFV
In service since the early 1970s, the Ultra M113 AFV can hold two crew members and nine dismounted troopers. It has less protection and network capabilities as compared to the AFV that will be replacing it.
A military transport helicopter, the Super Puma has been around for more than 20 years and will have to be replaced. The new helicopter has not been announced yet, but an announcement will come soon.
Its iconic twin rotor design have few equals in the world, and it is used in search and rescue, aeromedical evacuation and humanitarian missions. It is due to be upgraded or replaced with a new variant.
ENDURANCE-CLASS LANDING SHIP TANK
The 141m-long landing ships tank, the largest warships at the navy's disposal, have been deployed for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief incidents. The first Endurance-class LST was commissioned in 1998, replacing the older County-class LSTs.