Sunday, May 4, 2014

Republic of Singapore Navy Day 2014

On the eve of the Republic of Singapore's 47th anniversary on Navy Day tomorrow, we present fun facts anchored on Singapore about naval warfare and Singapore's Navy.

Do write to us at if you have more factoids for this list.

To all those in our silent service: Happy Navy Day  :-)

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Britain's Royal Navy anticipated fighting with a balanced fleet out of the Singapore Naval Base. At full strength, this fleet would comprise a least one aircraft carrier, HMS Eagle, submarines grouped under the 4th Flotilla and heavy units deployed from Britain. This point validates the value of a balanced naval force structure, which includes submarines.

The Eagle and 4th Flotilla were reassigned to the Mediterranean theatre as Britain fought for her life for two years before war broke out in the Pacific. The presence of both would have added much bite to Force Z, especially if  Eagle was complemented by a second aircraft  carrier, the Indomitable. Naval units operating out of Singapore at full strength could have bought much needed time to reinforce Singapore with better combat planes and posed a serious menace to Japanese shipping supporting the Malayan campaign.

World records
They may not look it, but the RSN's 114-metre long Formidable-class stealth frigates are the world's most heavily-armed class of frigates. Each warship can be armed with a max warload of 24 Harpoon SSMs, which is the most number of anti-ship missiles carried by any frigate now in service.

Another world naval record: Compared to all known amphibious warfare ship classes, Singapore's 141-metre long Endurance-class ships can carry the most number of landing craft. This double-digit number allows each ship to land a battalion-size force in one wave.

Name games
Endurance-class Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) are, strictly speaking, Landing Platform Docks (LPDs). These warships were temporarily labelled with the uniquely Singaporean term, Helicopter Landing Ships, during the Indian Ocean tsunami relief mission in January 2005. This was done to make it clear to United Nations planners and the foreign media that the LPDs LSTs could embark helicopters.

Still on the LSTs: Our Endurance-class LSTs can each lay a causeway using pontoons attached to the side of their heli decks. This class of ships have never been seen publicly sailing with pontoons.

The special electronic warfare suite aboard upgraded Missile Gunboats, associated with the art of seduction/distraction, was codenamed Project Juliet. Another gizmo that helped the MGB crew detect the presence of enemy electronic transmissions was codenamed Project Eureka. The officer(s) who picked these project names must have had a poetic streak.

Naval hardware
The RSN's stealthiest vessels are also its oldest. These are the Challenger and Archer-class SSKs.

The two types of radar-equipped aircraft configured to support the Singapore Navy were converted from passenger/transport planes. The first was the Skyvan. The one now in service is the Fokker 50, heavily-modified as the Fokker 50 Mark IIS Enforcer.

Each stealth frigate can operate an air group of two types of platforms. The first asset is the familiar Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk. The other is unmanned.

There is a fast craft in RSN service, thought to be a semi-submersible, whose capabilities have yet to be disclosed. The warship was on the itinerary of the FFS squadron media embed in February 2009 but was not showcased due to a last minute decision. Yes, *sigh*.

The RSN operates the fastest firing weapon in the SAF's arsenal. This is the Dillon Aero M-134D 7.62mm minigun. Each fires at a rate of 50 rounds per second.

Trial versions of what evolved into the Fast Craft Equipment Personnel were initially propelled by screws. The propulsion was later changed to twin Hamilton waterjets.

A trial long-range radar array developed by the Defence Science & Technology Agency was mounted on the seawall at Changi Naval Base some years ago.

Our People
The term Ratings, used to denote RSN Specialists, never gained popularity in service.

Our submariners have all had their wisdom teeth removed.

More RSN officers and WOSEs from 3rd Flotilla have earned operational experience than those from 1st Flotilla, as the bulk of past overseas deployments were shouldered by LSTs. This ratio will change as personnel aboard our stealth frigates are sent for overseas operations more often.

Among the three SAF Services, the RSN has never had a Singapore Navy officer rise to the post of Chief of Defence Force. But the RSN beat the other Services when an RSN officer led the Ministry of Defence as its Permanent Secretary Defence - the top civil servant in the defence ministry.

Lastly and on a purely personal note: If I were young again and given a choice to sign on with any SAF Service, I would choose the Navy.

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