Domain range

The fourth SAF Department to defend digital

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will establish the Digital and Intelligence Service, or DIS, to bolster Singapore’s defense against threats in the digital realm. Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen announced this in his Committee of Supply (COS) speech on the defense budget on March 2.

As the cybersphere continues to grow, threats from the digital realm are also increasing in sophistication and number, Dr Ng said. There is also evidence of countries and non-state entities such as terrorist groups launching attacks in the physical and digital spheres.

Dr Ng explained: “The addition of this fourth service, DIS, will allow the SAF to better train and fight as a networked, integrated and expanded force to deal with (not only) the range of threats that we are experiencing today, but also the digital realm that we know will grow in the future.”

The DIS should be in place by the last quarter of 2022.

New skills, same strong values

The DIS is the next step in the development of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) community.

The SAF has gradually built its C4I networks and systems since the inauguration of the C4I community in 2012. This was followed by the creation of the Defense Cyber ​​Organization in 2017, which coordinates cybersecurity in the defense sector.

“figuratively, if the numerical force is now a battalion force, we actually need a few brigades, maybe even a division-sized force,” Dr Ng said.

He also noted that DIS soldiers will need specializations not only in basic computer and communications fields, but also in various fields, including data science, psychology, linguistics, anthropology and geography, to enable them to understand the motivation and means behind attacks by state and non-state groups.

Although the skills required of DIS personnel are different from those fighting in the physical realms, they must have the same characteristics and values ​​as their Army, Navy and Air Force counterparts, such as as resilience and “a commitment to the shared mission of making Singapore better”. security and peace”.

More powerful new generation SAF

The addition of the DIS is one of the steps that will help complete MINDEF’s vision for SAF in 2040. Elaborating on how next generation SAF is taking shape, Dr Ng said: “By 2040, the army, equipped with new generation infantry battalions and new aircraft carriers and armored tracked howitzers, will be more maneuverable, able to strike faster and harder.

“The Navy, with multi-role combat ships, Invincible-class submarines, and unmanned vessels, will be able to see and strike farther out to sea and in the depths to better protect our waters…The Next Gen Air Force, with F-15SGs, F-35s and next-generation drones will be more deadly, versatile (and) effective to better protect our skies.”

Unmanned systems

Among the assets recently acquired by SAF is the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Orbiter 4 short-range unmanned aerial vehicle (CR-UAV) system. This advanced multi-mission aerial platform will complement the existing fleet of larger drones to enhance the RSAF’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Weighing 50 kg with a wingspan of 5.4 m, the Orbiter 4 CR-UAV’s small size – combined with an accurate sensor and high portability – allows it to be used in a wide range of environments, including including urbanized and confined spaces, to support operations such as counter-terrorism. It can travel up to 150 km for 24 hours and fly at almost 130 km/h.

Dr Ng informed that the first tranche of Maritime Security Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) will be deployed to patrol the local waters. Equipped with a collision detection and collision avoidance system, this USV can autonomously navigate safely through the congested Singapore Strait.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) mine countermeasures vessels will also be replaced by a fully unmanned system from 2027.

Building the next generation SAF

Dr. Ng also announced that the Singapore Army will field the first Armored Hunter Battle Group in March this year.

The latest addition to the SAF’s armored arsenal, the Hunter Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) is the first of its kind to be fully digitized. It features touchscreen controls, automatic target detection and tracking, and an advanced suite of C4 systems for faster battlefield coordination.

Along with new additions to its arsenal – such as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighters slated for delivery to the SAF from 2026 – the SAF is modernizing assets such as the RSN’s Formidable-class frigates, which have been in service for 15 years. . .

Its combat management system will be improved to take advantage of the latest advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence. Coupled with improved sensors, the upgraded frigates will be able to detect and respond to potential threats more quickly.

Current ship weapon systems will be upgraded to be more lethal and accurate, while communications systems will be refreshed to increase their ability to network with the rest of the SAF.

And with the integration of the fleet management system, the information collected on the ships’ platform and the health status of the combat systems will be gathered and used for preventive technical maintenance to improve the operational readiness of the frigates. .

Prepared to fight our own battles

Dr. Ng underscored the importance of continuing to build the Next Gen SAF, drawing on the examples of Ukraine, Kuwait and Qatar, as a reminder of “what happens to vulnerable small states” and where “the independence and freedom are in jeopardy”.

“We live by the saying that the stronger the SAF, the easier it is to make friends and have fewer enemies. No one will defend Singapore so vigorously if the Singaporeans don’t or can’t. .”