As Singapore redevelops to meet population changes, land use planners should guard against urbanising mainland Singapore to the extent that the island becomes no longer defensible.
The Singapore we could see in 2030 comes pretty close to depriving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) of the space it needs to mobilise, deploy and manoeuvre for action.
If the SAF cannot flex its muscle, Singapore will become nothing more than a target rich environment packed with more military assets per square kilometre than any other country on earth.
One is grimly reminded of the fate of Roman legions during the 9 A.D. Battle of Teutoburg Forest when a large and powerfully-armed Roman force found itself unable to respond to relentless attacks as its infantry and cavalry could not deploy into battle formation in the tight confines of the German forest. As the Romans marched through Teutoburg Forest, they found their combat potential slowly bled white by well-planned ambushes and ferocious hit-and-run attacks.
Singapore should not assume the SAF's extensive order of battle alone will translate into military strength. If SAF units are caught unprepared during the crucial transition between mobilising citizen soldiers for action and deploying them for operations, the result could be a debacle.
During a simulation of potential military crisis scenarios by this blog, it was found that the SAF could do its job only if land was reserved for mobilised units to mass and then spring into battle formation quickly (defined as M+24).
The old Turf Club site in the heart of Bukit Timah, with its large open green spaces, was role played as one possible area. It was simulated for use by the SAF as an equipment marshalling area (EMA) for a large Singapore Army unit to ready itself for action.
Sites like this are rare on mainland Singapore. In years to come, they will become rarer still as the Land Use Plan gobbles up vacant space for urban renewal.
This is a red flag defence watchers should be aware of.
All those impressive war games that the SAF publicises regularly assumes an area of operations depleted of civilians and the ability for a Manoeuvre Force to move freely at every compass point. Who on earth can guarantee this in land-scare Singapore?
Here's what happened when we tried that on mainland Singapore: The lack of space for SAF to deploy its firepower tactically became immediately obvious as more active Operationally-Ready National Service (i.e. reservist) units were activated for action.
As alluded to in an earlier post on the Singapore Artillery, the comfortingly large margin in 155mm heavy artillery tubes the SAF enjoys means land force commanders have to find and secure a large land footprint to emplace the Singapore Artillery's xx-plus NS battalions.
The trick was finding that land in present-day Singapore.
The situation was eased somewhat once the surge into the AO began. Anything before that left Army divisions with war material fully armed, fuelled and manned, possibly in march order when a Manoeuvre Force is at its most vulnerable.
As Singapore urbanises further as we march towards 2030, we should realise that open land reserves like the old Turf Club may no longer be available to the SAF.
After the Full Force Potential of the SAF was activated, Singapore quickly ran out of room to accommodate the SAF's activated NS battalions and active full-time National Service (NSF) units as the clock ticked past M+6. It was thought that there would be gridlock if every armoured vehicle, artillery piece and motorised transport with an MID-numberplate was ordered into action simultaneously.
Anyone who has been caught in a traffic jam on Singapore's expressways would realise how quickly traffic builds up should just one lane on a heavily used thoroughfare become obstructed due to a fender bender.
The Singapore Army's Military Police Command was expected to keep certain highways clear of civilian traffic. This was mentioned as an untried mission during peacetime and a difficult one during a build-up to hostilities as civilians may ignore or be too panicky to obey instructions from MPs.
One key assumption underpinned the successful transition from peace to war: Singapore must enjoy full control of the skies. The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was envisaged to perform a key role in safeguarding Singapore as full mobilisation got underway.
This was a delicate assumption for reasons which we would rather not sketch in detail.
Strenuous and relentless interference should be expected should this country ever face a military crisis. These could be executed on our highways, directed against EMAs packed solid with citizen soldiers or military material, or around the EOR of our precious air bases.
It suffices to say that only an idiot of an Enemy would allow the SAF to unilaterally mobilise, arm and deploy for action.
In peace and troubled peace, no plan survives first contact with the Enemy.