Defending S’pore isn’t an overnight adventure. It’s an everyday effort.

17/03/2023

Everyone has a part to play in defending Singapore during this challenging historical moment, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee to 196 new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers at the 128/22 Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade at SAFTI Military Institute this past Saturday (Mar 11).

This is plain fact. When push comes to shove, it is natural for us to fight for the people and places we love.

Also since the PAP Government’s longstanding Total Defence strategy not just covers in-your-face Military and Digital threats. Civil, Economic, Social and Psychological threats factor in too.

These bold pillars of Total Defence complement an $18 billion defence budget for 2023.

The funds, as Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen shared last month in Parliament (Feb 24), will go towards equipment, experts and exercises which will keep the SAF one of Asia’s “most advanced” militaries, building it as a bulwark for 2040 and beyond.

Defence is an everyday community effort

“We can participate in community emergency preparedness exercises when they come round to our neighbourhoods,” said Minister Lee about how we can contribute to Total Defence, and noting how US-China tensions, the Russia-Ukraine war and climate change threaten Singapore.

“We can fact-check when we receive messages, and do not disseminate them further if they seek to sow distrust and divide Singaporeans.”

Good advice, considering the misinformation that is out there unfiltered on the University of WhatsApp.

Other ways people can defend Singapore are also in this everyday style.

“We can strengthen our multi-cultural way of life by deepening our relationships with our neighbours and friends of all races and all faiths,” said Minister Lee.

“Take part in our efforts to strengthen our workforce and our economy through the Industry Transformation Maps.”

“And actively participate in the important conversations and in important discussions that are now taking place under Forward Singapore, to deepen and widen our social compact that defines us as Singaporeans, and defines the Singapore way of life,” he added.

Safety does not come overnight

Meanwhile, the PAP Government has built up the SAF into a deterrent that “today is recognised as one of the most advanced in Asia”, as Minister Ng shared in Parliament this past February.

“We operate modern, state-of-the-art platforms. Together, these Services can prosecute campaigns across a spectrum of security challenges. And this modernisation took two decades, but has been completed successfully. Very few militaries have achieved that,” said Minister Ng.

Today, the Army uses digital-capable vehicles like Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicles and Leopard Tanks. The Air Force is buying another eight new F-35B jets to replace Singapore’s current F-16 wing.

And the Navy has two new Invincible-class submarines; a total of four submarines will watch over (and under) Singapore’s shores by 2030.

Multilateral training exercises such as F-35 flights during Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin, Australia and the newly-set-up (Oct 28, 2022) Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) branch of the SAF are other ways the SAF keeps our home safe.  

For a longer-term historical context for this progress (and priority), consider this: When the PAP Government took over as leaders of an independent Singapore in 1965, Singapore’s military strength comprised only two ships, about 1,000 men and 50 officersand no air force to speak of. 

And contrast this with how Minister Lee commissioned nearly four times that number of officers just this previous week; more such commissioning ceremonies to follow.

“For the SAF, major systems and platforms take 10 to 15 years to conceptualise, build and integrate into our fighting force. That’s assuming everything runs smoothly, without chop and change,” said Minister Ng.

Good that the PAP is fundamentally far-sighted then.

Added Minister Ng as a final hard truth:   

“The defence of Singapore is a long-term commitment. The success of it is not for the faint-hearted and can only be achieved if we as one people have that staying power, never flagging in spirit or effort; never lulled or deceived that Singapore does not need a strong SAF because the world is safe or that others will protect us.”

Top image credit: Singapore Army/Facebook.