Thursday, February 23, 2023

Change in Singapore Armed Forces Chief of Defence Force and Republic of Singapore Navy Chief of Navy

The 10 Singaporeans who led the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as Chief of Defence Force (CDF) gathered for a group photo a few years ago. Sadly, Lieutenant-General Ng Jui Ping (5th from left) has since passed on.

I know of at least three former SAF CDFs who have read Pukul Habis - because the retired generals (including General Winston Choo) kindly shared their feedback with me. Three other former Service chiefs - one from army, one from navy and one air force - have also read the book.

Am humbled and pleased that these generals made time to read the fictional war story. This is the first time three former SAF CDFs have commented directly on something I wrote.

As a writer, am also happy that they read the novel in the spirit in which it was written. As a Singaporean, I took great comfort in reading their feedback, which reinforced my enduring belief in the SAF's ability and readiness to do what's necessary in time of need.

Change in CDF and Chief of Navy
Yesterday's announcement that Rear-Admiral Aaron Beng, Chief of Navy (CNV) of the Republic of Singapore Navy, would take over from Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong as CDF on 24 March this year saw some media highlight the CDF-designate's status as the first RSN officer for the SAF's apex position. And as part of the continuing process of leadership renewal in the SAF, RADM Sean Wat, RSN Fleet Commander, will assume the appointment of CNV on 10 March.

The SAF pays particular attention to keeping its people aware of how various arms come together to defend Singapore. For example, officer cadets train together during the Joint Term in the Officer Cadet School, which introduces officer cadets to the spectrum of operations that the SAF is capable of executing while forging professional bonds with future officers whom they will work with during their SAF career.

As officers rise through the ranks, they will participate in SAF war games of increasing size, scale and complexity. Such exposure adds to their appreciation of the SAF's spectrum of capabilities. So SAF senior leadership should be well-appraised of what the SAF can do in peacetime and during operations, with insights that go above and beyond what they learned in their own Service (i.e. army, navy, air force or defence intelligence service).

The appointment of Rear-Admiral Aaron Beng to the apex position in the SAF's leadership reflects MINDEF/SAF's confidence in the organisation's success in inculcating a Joint mindset amongst its officers. It is also a positive signal that capable officers, regardless of the colour of the uniform he or she wears, can shoot for the highest positions in the SAF.

Singapore has always been a maritime nation. RADM Beng's tenure as Chief of Defence Force will come at a time when MINDEF/SAF reflect on options for replacing key naval assets such as the Victory-class missile corvette and Endurance-class tank landing ships (LSTs), and introduces new and more capable Invincible-class submarines. As the LST replacement is expected to operate army and air force assets from her deck, RADM Beng's firsthand insights into the peculiarities of naval warfare will add value to a significant naval project that will serve as a springboard for sharpening RSN capabilities in delivering naval power, on and from the sea.

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