Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR April 2014 Contents 30 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter APRIL 2014
in order to retain them. training command ensures
submarine personnel are put through a holistic
training regime such that they are equipped with
the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their
jobs. to assist with training it also has a number
of simulators and trainers; a Ship
Handling Simulator, Seamanship
trainer, Damage control trainers (at
Sembawang) and tactical training
Simulator (at the RSn’s tactical
training centre). the RSn also ensures there is
opportunity for personnel to undergo professional
development and academic upgrade opportunities.
Finally, pay is recognized as one part of the recruiting
and retention formula.
in Summary: the RSn entered the submarine
domain in 1995 when it committed to purchasing
the first ‘challenger’ class, which it commenced
operating in 2000. there is sufficient open source
information available to argue that they are proficient
in the sustainment and operation of submarines.
Whilst their operations are not publicized, they
can be assessed as a competent force for the
following four reasons. 1) the nation has the right
economic, demographic and infrastructure pillars in
place to support the capability properly. 2) there
is no reason to think that Singapore isn’t applying
at least the same naval discipline to sustainability
and readiness of its submarine force as it does for
its surface ship forces, which are seen to exercise
regularly with a multitude of navies and respond
to serious operational needs when they are called
upon to do so, even at short notice. Most recently, in
response to Malaysian Flight 370 going missing, the
RSn immediately deployed frigate RSS SteADFASt
and corvette RSS ViGOUR and announced the
departure of its submarine rescue vessel, MV SWiFt
ReScUe, to the area. 3) there appears to have
been a very smooth transition from challenger class
submarines to the newer Archer class submarines (in
fact the training duration was reduced from original
plan of three years to two years) and 4) Singapore’s
submarines participate in a wide array of exercises,
ranging from elementary through to high end. A
number of indicators suggest its operators may
well be regularly engaged in high end peace time
operations (i.e . covert iSR operations).
And that leads us to Singapore’s procurement of two
type 218SG submarines.
the 218SGs are said to be a derivative of tKMS’
very successful type 214 submarine. Of course,
Singapore couldn’t have a 214 submarine, 14 being
a most unlucky number in chinese culture. However
if history is anything to go by it’s unlikely to be just
a number change. the boat is believed to be larger
(some media reports have suggested the boat may
even be a derivative of a 4000 tonne type 216) and
will incorporate technologies from both the German
type 212 program and the israeli Dolfin ii program –
noting that Singapore and israel have had a ‘secret’
defence relationship since 1965. the sonars are
likely to be the next cSU-90 iteration, however
the ‘combat system’ will be the one indigenously
developed for the Archer class.
And it’s not just a two-boat purchase, rather the
commencement of a six boat strategic program. the
intention is to carefully upgrade the platforms in two
boat steps, which it is understood will see Singapore
become the launch customer for the German AiP
Methanol reformer technology coupled with lithium
And that’s not the end of it. there are signs
emerging, for reasons outlined below, that the US
will also participate in the Singapore program;
cooperating closely on the submarine technology
Singapore 218SG program will see a tightening
of undersea warfare relations with the US, which will
now focus its subsurface efforts amongst three key
Asian states; Japan and South Korea in the north, and
Singapore to the South.
A tiGhteninG relAtionShiP
Prosecuting an allegation that Australia’s relevance in
undersea warfare has diminished, though some claim
it has reached regional irrelevance, requires more than
simply showing a differential in submarine capability.
A crucial element of proof lies in examining the ever-
strengthening relationship between Singapore and
Australia’s key ally, the US.
there is no question that the
relationship between the US and
Singapore is close.
the US recognises the regional
importance of Singapore in its Asia strategy. it sits
alongside the busiest shipping lanes in the world
and is situated within Beijing’s growing sphere of
influence. But it is not just location that attracts the
Singapore is a small city-state with 5.3 million
people and an area of just over 700 square kilometres.
Despite its majority chinese ethnic population, it is
arguably more western than many western countries.
its economy is highly developed and stable too; it
has a diverse free market base that - unlike other
candidate partners in the region - is open and
corruption free. the country’s GDP in 2013 was
US $327 billion and its foreign exchange reserves
sit at US $273 billion (placing them 11th globally,
and well ahead of Australia which ranks 36th). its
Armed Forces are considered the best in the region.
in addition to the submarine force already described,
the RSn has a range of combatant and amphibious
vessels, the Air Force has over 350 aircraft (some
based in Australia, France and the US) and the army
is well equipped. the military’s active strength is circa
71,000 and the nation is capable of mobilising over
800,000 reservists. the prominence of its economy
and defence capability, the latter not possible without
the former, is no accident; they are the two pillars
Republic of Singapore frigate RSS Formidable (68) is alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran/Released
During the last 30 years Singapore has been
channeling investment into the establishment
of a strong domestic defence industry base.
27/03/14 4:44 PM
Links Archive APDR March 2014 APDR May 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page