Friday, February 8, 2013

Singapore's Land Use Plan 2030: Building a target rich environment

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Although the 6.9 million target planning parameter for Singapore's population in the year 2030 now looks iffy, items mapped out under the Singapore Government's Land Use Plan appear more definitive.

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm not privy to the nuts and bolts of defence plans, but I think it would be unnecessary to attempt a total mobilisation of the SAF and raise such a high level of forces.

There's simply no space. Not for the SAF, nor for the enemy.

So, why bother amassing the forces?

The way I see it, the SAF is armed to the teeth and adopts a conventional warfighting stance because of its symbolic value, and less its operational value. It's an embodiment of Sun Tzi's maxim that the best strategy is one that doesn't involve fighting (I'm paraphrasing here ... pretty badly I know ... but you get the point).

It scares potential enemies, and reassures Singaporeans. It's for deterrence. The nuts and bolts of using the SAF doesn't really matter. Sure, some will say the SAF is a paper tiger. But saying and trying to prove it - 2 very different things. Can an enemy afford to get it wrong? Our wargames suggest that the SAF may not be perfect, but there's still a good chance it can deliver a can of whoop ass if needed.

David, I enjoy your analyses. It's like reading Tom Clancy (I mean that as a compliment). But I fear you're assessing the SAF through the lens of the type of war you'd like it to fight, not the war that the region's geopolitics could ignite, and its geography can support.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they intend to use school fields and start bitching if schools take fire :) Aren't classrooms ideal for housing a surge troops? In all seriousness.

Also in all seriousness urban density has been cited as as a blessing. It has been noted that many urban terrain profiles shield troops from less highly angled artillery fire. This crimps enemy firing points to a relatively few ranges and directions. I am certain this input has gone into Singapore's urban planning. It would not be too hard considering Singapore is only bordered by land on one side. And we don't have to worry about seaborne attack by Jack Neo's enemy aircraft.

Anonymous said...

All the dots connected point to a deterrence less than fully capitalized by real capability.

Bottomless budget but neglect of support arms.

Economic impossibility of full mobilisation but NS obligations up to age 45 or 55.

Non-participation of third generation of leadership in generalship or admiralship.

That last point, it must be very empowering to say "Dad, I don't intend to toil away till the age of 28 for the sake of a fucking star. Change your plans for the country, get someone else to do it."

Anonymous said...

perhaps the soldiers can gather at the padang? or the new botanical garden?

that consideration re defence went into the urban planning is highly doubtful. the govt completely missed the fact that it would need extra infrastructure for an extra 2MILLION people. indeed, it wasn't even aware there were so many brazenly entering the country.

in the end, the army may not need to assemble. by the time the govt is aware we have been invaded, the enemy will have taken over.

Anonymous said...

To above:

Nope, leadership will do anything to stay in power. Politically their power base is new citizens. For internal security it is gurkhas. For external security I am sure a shit load of planning has been done.

AhTiongLikeToPakTorInBatam said...

Aiyahz....where got problem?

Lease Batam and Bintan for living space. Make deal with Indo Gahment. Connect with Chunnel. Maybe also move two airbase over.

Indo territory but Singapore law.

In exchange Singapore invest in Sumatra development like Iskandar.

Then got space in Singapore for say 5-6 super base , one each per division (with underground marshalling point/secondary ammo and equipment depot), dispersed basing.

Otherwise have small army or join with Malaysia leow.

Also can.

Anonymous said...

For a total war scenario to take place, the global balance of power must have broken down, but that will take time, so we have some time to prepare and mobilize.

Another scenario is sudden first strike by a global super power wannabe. It will be a simultaneous, concurrent cruise and ballistic missile strike on the first island chain including allied basing facilities, looking at you CNB, and since we are at it might as well take out CAB with saturation missile strike. This scenario if you can mobilize the SAF 100% also no use. Instead need the SAF to defend against second opportunity attack in this global breakdown of order chaos.

A third scenario is our good neighbours go crazy, real or politically. But this one also will take time to happen, we got some time to mobilize.

Anonymous said...

Singapore does not have to be 100% prepared for war. It is up against third rate enemies. Thousands of singaporean boys pay in blood for the SAF's shortcomings but singapore will win.

Anonymous said...


That will be sufficient to protect the leader and a country for him to lead.

If not, I pity the SAM crews at Changi airport who will have to die.