Friday, February 1, 2013

Military land use by the Singapore Armed Forces in 2030: Win some, lose some

Land Ho! Master plan for Singapore's land use in 2030, with areas colour-coded to indicate their planned use. Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore

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To Singapore-watchers familiar with the island's military geography, a map (click above or Google your own hi-res copy) showing how land might be used in the Lion City in 2030 unearths nuggets of defence information.

Sizeable areas of the island will still be classified for "Special use" by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), even as familiar military training grounds are given up on mainland Singapore in the name of national development.

Tengah Air Base
The question mark that hung over Tengah Air Base (TAB) on Thursday night, when reports that a Tengah housing estate would be developed, has been erased. The Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) largest fighter base will stay put in 17 years' time even as surrounding areas make way for a new town for 55,000 homes about three to five years' from now.

While TAB remains, two sizeable camps in the west are noticeably absent from the Singapore Ministry of National Development's Land Use Plan 2030.

Tuas Naval Base and Tg Gul
These are the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) Tuas Naval Base (TNB) and the Singapore Army's Tanjong Gul Camp. The footprint now occupied by these areas has been coloured for Industry use.

A "Special use" rectangle on the extreme western end of Singapore could be the candidate to replace Tuas Naval Base. This seafront property is strategically located. The site fronts the southernmost entrance to the Malacca Strait and will allow RSN warships unimpeded access to the strait and sea lanes in the Singapore Strait compared to TNB, which by 2030 will find its access to open sea blocked by an enlarged Jurong Island as well as congested shipping channels.

If TNB stays where it is, sea denial missions involving sea mines laid by converted trawlers or merchant ships during a period of tension could lock in naval base residents once the balloon goes up.

Familiar sites
Moving eastward from Tuas, the SAFTI Military Institute remains a recognisable geographical landmark. A sliver of land off Tengah Reservoir is likely where a concrete tower for visual and electronic observation has been built for the SAF.

The "Special use" patch next to the red "Institution" area indicates the RSAF's Missile Site Charlie is safe. Decades ago, the site was home to RSAF Bloodhound long-range SAMs. It is now said to bristle with truck-mounted Spyder missiles. In the very near future, it is thought that a new type of guided munition could possibly occupy MS "C" - but this is a wild guess.

As we move north, we find that TAB stays where it has always been since the base was built by the British before WW2. Murai Camp, home to the RSAF's UAV squadrons, will stay put. Swathes of pink indicate where housing estates - some new, some planned - will be sited.

The Armour community will recognise that Sungei Gedong Camp, Home of the Armour, will still be where it has always been in the backwoods of Singapore.

The Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the RSAF radar station/command centre atop Bukit Gombak keep their GPS coordinates.

Largest camp complex?
Other familiar sites include Sembawang Air Base, home to the RSAF's rotary wing community, Paya Lebar Air Base as well as Changi Air Base (West), including possibly Loop-3 Merah.

And just as TAB is noticeably absent in the west, the RSAF will apparently surrender vacate Changi Air Base (East), which is presently home to the RSAF's 145 Hornet Squadron of F-16D+ warplanes. The whole area is classed as "Infrastructure" and this footprint matches that of an enlarged Changi Airport (SIN) with three runways.

To the east, one can make out the basins of the RSN's Changi Naval Base (CNB). The "Special use" land adjacent to the naval base is possibly land reserved for an upcoming SAF camp complex - again, this is a shot in the dark. Looking at the footprint of this camp complex, this facility is likely to be one of the largest Army camps in Singapore. A camp complex is a military installation designed to share common facilities such as the cook house, shooting ranges and sports facilities like soccer fields, running track and swimming pools.

Another fixture in the east is Bedok Camp, Home of the Guards heliborne infantry. Built astride the East Coast Parkway's 4km to 5km mark, it is possible that the expressway outside the camp can be turned into an emergency runway. Observers who remarked that the runway is too short for fast jets would do well to remember that Guards fly into battle aboard helicopters - which could explain why the emergency runway expressway just outside Bedok Camp's rear gates has flower pots as the road divider.

It is instructive to note that land reclamation on Tekong, currently Singapore's largest offshore island, is due to commence "in the nearer term". The island remains largely green in 2013. This is because Tekong (its name is Malay for "centre"), an island in between Singapore's Changi Coast and Malaysia's Johor state, will be used almost exclusively by the SAF for manoeuvre training.

Training on Tekong, which has an oil palm estate, rubber estate and a FIBUA village for urban combat training, will replace mock battles fought in the more rural parts of mainland Singapore.

To put things into perspective, the 17-year Land Use Plan means that soldiers who enlist for full-time National Service this year would have completed their NS obligations by 2030.

It may be a long time coming, but it's comforting to know that those of use still alive in 2030 should be able to find the familiar SAF camps right where they have always been.


Anonymous said...

But what will we be defending then? How many of us will stay?

Anonymous said...

"The 17-year Land Use Plan means that soldiers who enlist for full-time National Service this year would have completed their NS obligations by 2030."

Not if they are like me. I have not served a day of reservist and I am overseas and proud of my foresight. Now that it has come to this, it was the wisest of decisions.

If anyone thinks they have authority to judge me, I ask if the government, no, the dynastic leaders, has authority to play god with our lives. Respect begets C2D. Disrespect begets the very opposite.

I believe CAB East is not moving. MND's map is just sloppy.

Anonymous said...

Hi David, having seen the white paper, will we be hearing your take on this issue?

David Boey said...

Dear Anonymous 6:53 AM,
Have posted Part 1 of a multi-part post on the Population White Paper.

Intent is to go beyond what you usually see about the 6.9 million figure.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Khatib camp, Home of the Guuners, is not shown in the 2030 masterplan.

David Boey said...

Hi above,
Will be worth keeping track of SAF camp complex developments over the next decade or so.

The one outside Changi Naval Base gate looks huge.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

I would just like to ask, how many Bloodhound sites were there in the pre-Independence days?

Seletar East
Amoy Quee
and now Tengah

Were there any more?

How about Gombak? British veterans have posted photos of AA guns at Gombak.

David Boey said...

Dear Anonymous 7 Feb, 4:29 AM,
Bloodhound SAMs were sited at the three locations mentioned.

The one you label as "Tengah" is next to the present day NTU, previously known as Nantah.

Part of the land from one site was given back to the State and is now where Nanyang Polytechnic and ITE College (Central) stand.

Bukit Gombak, the second highest point in Singapore, was where the British placed the radars that detected targets for the Bloodhounds.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Thanks, David.

What country were the Bloodhounds sent to after they were decommissioned?

Anonymous said...

My opinion is CAB East will stay put. But will expand with hard shelters towards the east. Currently the shelters there are soft. There will be an internal gate to CNB.