The Singapore Armed Forces is the military of the island nation of Singapore. Its high-tech capability compensates for its small size of 76,000 men and about 300,000 in reserves.
Some military analysts rank the Singapore Armed Forces as the best equipped and trained force in the region, since its highly-educated pool of conscripts allows it to invest in more advanced military technology. Recruitment is mostly on a conscription basis using a system similar to Israel's, with able-bodied male citizens above a certain age (sixteen and a half, usually deferred until eighteen after schooling) serving one and a half to two years of National Service, followed by Reservist duty annually. Note that 16-year-olds would be considered child soldiers, according to an optional protocol to the Geneva Convention.
The S.A.F.'s recruitment and training processes are noted to be gruesome and tough. Well said, so it is perhaps lucky for the women that they are just permitted to volunteer for service, unlike the men. However, any given National Serviceman is bound to say that the training faced by newer ones is nothing compared
to what they
used to face. Singapore is also noted to produce some of its own military equipment and they are relatively well-made, which makes some of Singapore's neighbours jealous. Some examples are the SAR-21 Bullpup Assault Rifle
and the Ultimax 100 Lightweight Light Machine Gun
There are four typical classes of service personnel within the S.A.F.
- Full-Time National Servicemen - Also known as NSFs (National Service, Full-Time). These are the young men conscripted into the S.A.F. to serve out their two year National Service term. It is considered standard behaviour to bemoan one's fate while in this stage, unless you happen to be posted to a hip and happening vocation.
- Operationally Ready National Servicemen - Also known as NSmen. Men who have completed their two year stint in the military. In spite of the fact that most of them disliked their time in the service, a large majority of them look back on their 'days in green' with some fondness and nostalgia. These men are reassigned to the reserve corps once released from their bonds, and have to complete a certain number of reservist term cycles dependent on individual unit requirements. It is considered standard operating procedure for NSmen to wave their civilian IDs and flaunt their 'liberated' status in front of NSFs. They can, however, sometimes act as kindly mentors to NSFs during their reservist cycles, giving them tips on how to handle some situations and speaking of later civilian life in general.
- Regulars - Every soldier in the S.A.F. starts out as an NSF. Somewhere along the line, they either decided that serving their nation is what they want to do, or they feel their talents lie best with the military. Those, or they simply just went insane and signed a minimum of 6 years of their lives away on a dotted line. All ranks higher than 2nd Sergeant (for enlisted personnel) and Lieutenant (for officers) must be regulars (unless you did something super awesome, like sink a pirate ship with a stone or something. To date, no one has been reported to have done this). The Navy and Air Force also mainly comprise regulars, as the technical expertise and dedication required often demands a longer time for training and learning, which will definitely exceed the NSF's liability of two years. All women in the S.A.F. are regulars, since women are not required to perform National Service.
- Defence Executive Officers - Also known as DXOs. They aren't military personnel per se, as they retain their civilian IDs and have some civilian privileges. They mainly serve in an administrative or advisory capability. Officers and enlisted regulars who have retired because they have reached their maximum term of service can also choose to stay with the S.A.F. in the capacity of a DXO as well.
The typical course of a soldier in the S.A.F. is detailed below (Commandos and Naval Divers follow a different route):
- Every recruit begins his journey at the S.A.F. Basic Military Training Centre. This is where new soldiers are taught about the basics of military service, indoctrinated with the core values of the S.A.F. and generally go through a strict training regimen. Everyone receives basic Infantry training here, with activities such as weapon handling and marksmanship, grenade training, obstacle courses, long marches, parades and a 6-day field deployment in the jungle. Fun. Recruits who have been certified and assigned a non-combatant status due to health problems do not do any of the physical stuff, and are reassigned to other training centres for further training after a typical period of 3 to 5 days.
- After Basic Military Training (BMT), all successful recruits, i.e. most, are promoted to the rank of Private. This is done at a Passing Out Parade (no, this doesn't mean they all pass out and collapse during the paradenote , but that they have passed out of basic training). Before completion of BMT, recruits are assessed according to their leadership abilities and physical aptitudes. This will determine the future course of their progression in National Service. Some will be selected to become Commissioned Officers, others to become Specialists (what Non-Commissioned Officers are called in the S.A.F.) and the rest will be streamed into vocational schools.
- Those selected to be trained as Officers will become Officer Cadets, and are trained for a grueling period of 9 months (12 for Naval Officer Cadets and in excess of 30 for Pilots) at Officer Cadet School. Once they're done, they are commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants. Those selected to be trained as Specialists will become Specialist Cadets, and are trained for a shorter but no less tough period of 6 to 7 months at Specialist Cadet School. When these are done, they graduate as 3rd Sergeants and put on their three chevrons. Sergeant Rock-ery is not a necessary outcome.
- Regardless of whichever leadership path every soldier is sent on, he will enter a specific vocational school to learn his trade (because you can't just have minimally-trained riflemen making up the whole Armed Forces, can you?). The various schools generally have self-explanatory names; the School of Military Medicine trains medics and medical officers, the School of Combat Engineers trains, well, Combat Engineers, etc. It should be noted that due to the increasing intellectual demands of many vocations, well-educated conscripts (with a GCE A level or polytechnic diploma) make up a disproportionate number of their total combat strength. Basic riflemen usually receive further training at their respective units as opposed to a vocational school.
- Once all the training is done, soldiers will serve out their respective roles in the S.A.F. until they complete their National Service term. During the course of all the training mentioned above, it is possible for any combat-fit soldier to 'sign on' (to use the local terminology) to become a regular.
The rank system of the S.A.F. follows the British one closely enough, but has its own unique ranking grades and some American influences. The most obvious legacy of the Brits is the pronunciation of 'Lieutenant'; we pronounce it as 'leftenant', thank you very much.
- Enlisted: The bulk of the S.A.F. You can't all be having officers; nothing will ever get done. Just as in other militaries, you do not address these people as 'sir' or 'ma'am'.
- Recruit - Private - Private First Class - Lance Corporal - Corporal - Corporal First Class
- Specialists: Non-commissioned officers of the S.A.F. are called Specialists (not to be confused with the US Rank of Specialist). It is often repeated within the S.A.F. that Specialists are there to catch all the excrement from above, because they 'have accountability, responsibility, but none of the authority'. Do not address these people as 'sir' or 'ma'am' either.
- 3rd Sergeant - 2nd Sergeant - 1st Sergeant - Staff Sergeant - Master Sergeant
- Warrant Officers: Specialists with enough years of experience can be selected to attend a Warrant Officer Conversion Course. They are considered senior Specialists, whose advice all officers are recommended to take seriously. Men are addressed as 'Encik' (meaning 'mister' in Malay) or 'sir' (in the Air Force), whilst women are addressed as 'ma'am'.
- 3rd Warrant Officer - 2nd Warrant Officer - 1st Warrant Officer - Master Warrant Officer - Senior Warrant Officer - Chief Warrant Officer
- Officers: Commissioned by the President of the Republic, they are the leaders and general managers of the S.A.F. The only way to become an officer is to complete Officer Cadet Training at Officer Cadet School.
- 2nd Lieutenant - Lieutenant - Captain - Major - Lieutenant Colonel - Senior Lieutenant Colonelnote - Colonel - Brigadier General - Major General - Lieutenant General
Note that the highest ranking officer in the S.A.F. is only a 3-star Lieutenant General. This is so because of the small size of the S.A.F., as a 4-star General will need so many 3-star Lieutenant Generals under his command, who will then need so many 2-star Major Generals under their
commands, who will...you get the idea
There is also the Singapore Civil Defence Force (S.C.D.F.). It started out as a normal fire brigade and became the highly competent firefighting and civil defence service it is today when the government decided to upgrade the organisation following the infamous Hotel New World incident
in the 1980s. Coincidentally
, this was the time when the murderer Adrian Lim was at large (he has since been made to dance the hemp fandango). The SCDF is also manned by conscripted full-time NS men, with similar careers and career progression as the S.A.F. Its many responsibilities encompass the handling of biochemical and radioactive materials, traffic accident response and rescue, first aid and rescue services, and naturally, firefighting.
The Singapore Armed Forces comprises three branches:
The Decisive Force
The Singapore Army
is the land-based arm of the S.A.F. and is the largest branch by numbers, with 3 combined Arms Divisions, 2 Operational Reserve Divisions and an Island Defence Force. It also includes the largest pool of Operationally Ready National Servicemen, i.e. men who have already completed their obligatory 2-year full time service. This is because most of the conscripts in the S.A.F. are streamed into the Army right out of Basic Military Training.
Under the Army are the eight main Combat Arms:
- Singapore Commando Formation - The Elite Infantry Force. These are the guys you want when things really, really need to get done without them being screwed up. Training is especially tough and there is a very high drop-out rate. Their red beret is iconic.
- Singapore Guards - The Rapid Deployment and Strike Force. Trained much harder and tougher than regular infantry, they are a bit more numerous than the Commandos, but are definitely no less tough. Have an equally iconic khaki beret.
- Singapore Combat Engineers - Exactly What It Says on the Tin. When you need bridges built or destroyed, mines placed or defused, obstacles deployed or removed, these are the men you want to call in.
- Singapore Infantry Regiments - The bulk of the Army, though no less important. Probably the least glamourous (and least sought-after) vocation, but essential in any combat engagement.
- Singapore Armoured Formations - Tank Goodness. They are THE Cavalry, though for some reason, considered as glamourous as the Infantry (read: not). The S.A.F. has recently acquired the German Leopard 2 tank to become the main steed for the Armoured Formations, which definitely adds an extra punch.
- Singapore Signals - The Communications guys. Need to talk to HQ? Call the Signals guys. Need a working command post set up? Call the Signals guys. Need your computer fixed cause you stupidly downloaded a virus? Call the Signals guys.
- Singapore Artillery - In Oriente Primus. No Army is complete without artillery, and the Singapore Army has plenty of it. They have some pretty cool toys too, like the PRIMUS Mobile Howitzer and Pegasus Lightweight Howitzer.
Supporting the Combat Arms are the Combat Support Units:
- Army Intelligence - We'd tell you, but then they'd have to kill us.
- Army Medical Services - Medic! They most definitely do not run around in white lab coats with syringe guns, but these are the guys you want watching your back. One amazing thing about the Medical Corps is that a large majority of qualified medics were once untrained recruits, meaning the training must have been quite...intensive. Case in point, it used to take a Specialist medic (ie one with the rank of sergeant) almost as long to earn his chevrons as an officer to earn his stripes. Now? It can take even *longer*. Medical Officers are a different breed; most, if not all of them are actually medical graduates who deferred their term of service to complete their M.D. qualifications. In return for their deferment, they serve out their NS liabilities as Medical Officers.
- Army Maintenance and Engineering Support
- Army Supply and Transport - The backbone of the Logistics Corps. Without these guys, forget about fighting for more than a day. An Army does march on its stomach, after all.
- Singapore Armed Forces Ammunition Command - Again, important. No bullets means no bullets to kill guys with.
The Republic of Singapore Navy
is a green-water navy
with a slightly higher degree of power projection, and is regarded as one of the best in the Southeast Asian region. Most of the servicemen in the RSN are career soldiers. It operates from two naval bases and consists of 6 submarines, 6 frigates, 6 corvettes, 11 patrol vessels, 4 amphibious transport docks and 4 mine countermeasures vessels. The RSN also recently added 2 unmanned surface vessels to its inventory. At the same time, the Navy operates closely with the Air Force in manning naval patrol aircraft such as the S-70B Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopter and Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft
One thing to note is that the RSN doesn't use typical Naval ranks like Ensign, Lieutenant Commander or Commander (except for its Admirals). They stick to the Army ranks, ostensibly because Naval command doesn't want to confuse its servicemen
. So a Captain in the RSN isn't really The Captain
, but a Lieutenant Colonel or full Colonel
is. And a Lieutenant isn't exactly the Naval equivalent to a Captain, but is really just
Under the Navy are 3 Fleets, which are further divided into 6 Naval Squadrons comprising all the vessels as mentioned above. These are supported by Naval Logistics Command, Naval Training Command and the Maritime Security Task Force.
One particular unit of note within the RSN is the Naval Diving Unit. These guys are considered the Commandos of the Navy, with a very harsh
and strict physical regimen and training programme
that sees a staggeringly high number of selected recruits drop out of training within the first few weeks. These guys become frogmen, Combat Divers and quasi-Marines when they are finished with their training. You do NOT
want to mess with these guys.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force
is the aerial arm of the S.A.F., and is often regarded as the most glamorous branch that a full time National Serviceman can be posted to. For a nation the size of Singapore, it is remarkably oversized, operating a number of aircraft in excess of 400 with around 13,600 personnel. This is probably because the Air Force can be considered a force multiplier for the entire S.A.F., wherein they can support
the Army and Navy as far as possible while defending the skies of the nation.
The RSAF operates many 3 to 3.5 Generation aircraft, like the F-15SG Strike Eagle, F-16C/D Fighting Falcon, F-5E Tiger, G550 AEW&C and C-130 Hercules to name a few. Located within Singapore are 4 Air Bases, amongst which the various squadrons are spread. Combined with two civilian airports, this makes Singaporean airspace one of the most crowded and heavily used in the world.
The motto of the Air Force is often disparaged by Army and Navy personnel
, but we all know why
Since the 2000s, the RSAF comprises 6 overall commands:
- Air Defence Operations Command - Considered the Command leading all the rest of the Commands, taking in information and assigning air defence assets during peace and wartime as required. Also performs defensive monitoring of Singaporean airspace and all regional air traffic.
- Air Combat Command - Home of the Ace Pilot and flight and maintenance crew. All manned fixed-wing aircraft (Attack, interceptor, transport or otherwise) fall under the umbrella of this Command. Typical Fighter Pilot Jock Tropes apply.
- Air Power Generation Command - If you want Death from Above, you're gonna need to be able to launch the Death high above in the first place. These are the guys who operate the command facilities, provide the Air Traffic Control services, repair the runways and taxiways, defend the air bases, and supply the ammunition as well as spare parts for equipping the aircraft.
- Participation Command - The S.A.F. differs from most Air Forces around the world in that all air assets are operated by the RSAF. This means that helicopters (typically operated by the respective Army or Navy Air Arms in other militaries) and anti-air defence units belong to the Air Force. The 'participation' in Participation Command springs from the fact that the Air Force 'participates' in ground- and sea-based operations. Therefore, all rotary-wing aircraft fall under this Command, alongside the Anti-Air assets.
- UAV Command - Operates all unmanned air assets in the RSAF. Probably could drop a bomb through your window from 10 kilometers away.
- Air Force Training Command - When the R.S.A.F. reshuffled its command structure, the higher-ups decided to place all training wings under one umbrella command. These include Flight Training School, UAV Training School, and Air Force School to name a few. Since enlisted personnel and officers train together, this is where the camaraderie and the strongest bonds are built up.
- Army Daze is a 1996 comedy movie based on a stage play that follows five young men from different backgrounds performing their National Service. Much of movie's humor focus on the characters quirks; Malcolm is naive and pampered Mama's boy, Johari is the fat guy who wants to be an actor, Krishna acts like a Bollywood hero, Kenny is the Camp Gay and Ah Beng being .....an Ah Beng (A dumb, rude Chinese punk) and how they try to do well in the army. While some of them like or dislike doing National Service, the one thing they enjoyed the most was the close friendship the five made.
- Every Singaporean Son is 2010 mini-reality show by the National Geographic channel and the Singapore government that focuses on several new recruits joining the Singapore Army as part of their National Service.
- The two-part film Ah Boys to Men and Ah Boys to Men 2 is a 2012 Singaporean-Malaysian comedy film. The main plot revolves around a group of army recruits as they start their National Service. Ken Chow is a spoilt teenager who dislikes the Army and is reluctant to enlist as he wants to study abroad with his girlfriend. While waiting for the mandatory haircut, Ken gets to know a few people - "Lobang" Lee Onn, Aloysius Jin (a.k.a Wayang King) and Man In Ping a.k.a. "I.P. Man". Emotional issues that National Service recruits experience for a long period of time, such as not being able to be that in touch with their kin are tackled in the movie. It also pokes fun into many infamous incidents related to the Singapore Army by parodying these events. It is the highest-grossing Singaporean film of all time, and has grossed over four times of its S$3 million budget. Buoyed by audience demand, a third installment has been confirmed.