Saturday, February 13, 2010
Thoughts on defence
Strange as it may sound, a pre-opening walkabout at Singapore's first Integrated Resort (IR) this past week set me thinking about a host of defence-related issues.
Thoughts about defence issues kicked in when I chanced upon an old friend while in the IR's cavernous basement car park. It was a Harlan tractor of the kind commonly found on Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) air bases.
The Harlan parked at the IR sported a shiny coat of paint and had two trams in tow. Parked by a tram stop, the Harlan was waiting for the day when she would ferry guests around the car park, saving them the walk which measures some 900 metres from extreme ends.
In my previous job as Defence Correspondent, the Harlan tractors I saw were battle wagons used by the RSAF Air Power Generation Command (APGC). The Harlans (and Toyotas) are essential links in the integrated air defence network that is designed to result in the total destruction of hostile units and target sets by RSAF warplanes.
Comparing the then-and-now images of the Harlan tractors shows a striking contrast in the two machines - the IR's Harlan polished and prepared for a peacetime role; APGC's battle wagon an unsung hero in the RSAF's complex drawer plans.
The same analogy could be extended to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The full force potential of the densely-populated island republic - which is about three-and-a-half times the size of Washington DC - rest with its citizen soldiers.
The SAF also relies on civil resources such as Singapore Airlines Cargo freighters, state-owned container ships and thousands of specialised civilian-registered vehicles like container trucks, cranes and heavy machinery to support its war machines in time of crisis.
These drawer plans were drawn up, improved upon over the years and are tested regularly. The fact that citizen soldiers and CR assets can be activated at a moment's notice makes the Total Defence strategy an essential element of Singapore's deterrent posture against hostile elements.
Just as the IR's Harlan could serve on an air base if it was requisitioned by Singaporean authorities and given a coat of warpaint, Singapore's civil resources give the SAF the staying power and long reach that people often overlook during peacetime.
Defence issues also sprung to mind when I reviewed the website of our rival IR, Marina Bay Sands.
One image on the MBS website indicates how air traffic brings Singapore closer to tourist markets around Asia.
The chart reminded me of missile range rings mentioned by Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean when he talked about the emerging threat from ballistic missiles in a media interview in 2007. So just as marketing planners at Singapore's two IRs rub their hands with glee when they see how air routes shrink travel distances, I imagine that Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) defence planners look at similar charts with concern.
Commercial airliners bring Asian cities closer. Warplanes, missiles and battlefield rockets do the same.
MINDEF's long-term projections must factor in the impact that long-range munitions, such as aircraft-delivered munitions or ballistic missiles, will have on Singapore's defence posture.
Defence planning goes above and beyond merely looking across the border and comparing what Malaysia and Indonesia have in their respective arsenals. It involves forecasting future threats and studying how Singapore could create a proverbial iron dome to defend its skies from the steel rain launched from a hostile shore.....
Speaking of mental stimuli, one result of leaving journalism for the glitzy world of casino gaming is the different kind of secrets I see in the IR.
In the past, sensitive material touched on issues that MINDEF's Military Security Department would take issue with. You know, Project this and Project that, plus all the black diamonds and unnamed combat capabilities and war chariots we have stashed away somewhere.
Now, sensitive material involves choosing between cotton, spandex or a polyester mix for one's significant other, with the risque product lines explained cheerfully by the bubbly salesgirls at Victoria's Secret.
So a different kind of secret has landed on my lap, but I'm reminded from time to time of the role the SAF serves in keeping Singapore safe from harm.
With Total Defence Day (15 Feb) just round the corner, perhaps you should too.
Posted by David Boey at 3:31 PM