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Singapore’s Ministry of Defence outlines plans for Next Generation Armed Forces

Mr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Defence spoke about some of the upcoming plans for a new generation of Armed Forces for Singapore yesterday during the MINDEF’s Committee of Supply Debate 2019.

He spoke of changes brought about by the advances in technology and how this would assist Singapore’s Armed Force and enhance operations. He also spoke about the advances in the digital environment and how this can open opportunities to attack the country which they were preparing for by increasing cyber resources and introducing various cyber training courses for all citizens.

SAF – A Hybrid Force

The Minister said that he thought that the significant change for the SAF of 2030 and beyond is that the SAF will become a more hybrid force. We will use many more unmanned platforms.

He said that the RSAF’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)  will be replaced by newer UAVs with better capabilities over the next few years and that soldiers within the Army will soon use micro-UAVs, for the first time, which will be particularly useful in built-up and urban environments.

“These unmanned platforms will complement traditional manned equipment, to enhance responses across the full range of operational scenarios” said Mr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Defence

A Smart Military Training City – SAFTI

SAFTI City will complement these traditional terrains such as FOFO Hill, Pengkang Hill, the Pasir Laba Boat Shed, and Elephant Hill with urban settings to better prepare our soldiers for a wide variety of operations in the 21st century. SAFTI City will be a connected wired city.

In line with Singapore’s Smart City drive, SAFTI City is planning to be a smart training ground. It will use simulation and detailed monitoring, to help soldiers learn better.

“I am glad to report that SAFTI City is taking shape and on schedule. We will build more roads and
bridges so that motorised and mechanised troops in Army vehicles can start training this year. SAFTI City will be progressively built and when finished will have more than 200 buildings of varying heights and types when completed – all wired up.”

SAF boosts Digital Defence by enlisting more cyber experts

Currently, Singapore has a defence cyber centre within MINDEF and the SAF for daily operations against cyber threats against MINDEF and SAF IT systems, especially for command and control computer networks. Incident response teams are also which can also be deployed to support other national agencies during cyber attacks on critical systems.

The Minister added that in order to meet these needs, the SAF has to expand the pool of regulars for the cyber domain. And they will be Military Domain Experts Scheme (MDES) personnel, as well as the non-uniformed Defence Cyber Experts. We have recently announced that more than 300 will be hired in the first phase.

“NSFs too will play an important role in digital defence, just as they do for kinetic operations. The 59-strong pioneer batch of the Cyber NSF Scheme enlisted in late 2018 after passing two rounds of rigorous tests are now undergoing an eight-month-long Cyber Specialist Cadet Course, in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Technology, and will graduate this August.”

Another 80 to 90 Cyber Specialists aim to be enlisted this year to strengthen the forces of cyber units.

 Armed Forces will train at the ‘cyber range’

Singapore “cyber ranges” is more formally known as the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre. In this cyber range, cyber soldiers are exposed to realistic training. It uses a simulation of the SAF’s networks and online traffic and train with actual malware and attacks against these nodes.

“Like in live-firing ranges, you are supposed to shoot straight. The SAF aims to train soldiers that can respond to these attacks in a realistic and challenging cyber environment.” said Mr Ng Eng Hen.

Updating the force with cyber skills

The SAF will also look to  NSmen with IT expertise as a result of their civilian jobs or training. One example is the existing NS Expertise Conversion Scheme. It allows non-officers, NSmen with industry expertise, to become Military Domain Experts Scheme officers for cyber vocations. The MINDEF and the SAF are currently exploring better matching of NSmen with their civilian IT vocations.

Singapore is on track to build a modernised tri-service SAF and perhaps even a quadri-service SAF, including the cyber force, that can meet security challenges both in the real and virtual worlds in the 21st century concluded Mr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Defence.

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