Singapore Navy adopting changes to strengthen its numbers

10:40:00 PM
SINGAPORE, -- The Singapore Navy is not resting on its laurels, even as it celebrates 48 years of keeping Singapore's waters secure.

Facing tightening manpower demographics in an increasingly complex maritime climate, it is adopting several changes to strengthen its numbers.

The Military Domain Experts Scheme started five years ago as a means of retaining servicemen with deep expertise. It is also a possible mid-career entry point, for those mulling a career in uniform. Currently, mid-careerists make up about 10 per cent of those on the scheme.

Speaking to reporters on Friday (May 8), Navy Chief Rear-Admiral Lai Chung Han said a campaign to target mid-careerists to join the scheme might be in the works.

He added that the Navy might even consider creating new vocations to better tap the skills of these mid-careerists, depending on the Navy's needs.

But not just anyone should apply. "They must bring value, it must make sense, and it must be because there's an operational need for these vocations - those in engineering, those in the merchant navy, those who work in industry, precision manufacturing, those with backgrounds in safety, lawyers even - because going forward I think a good understanding of law, international law, how that applies in periods of tension and so and so forth," RADM Lai said.

Also on the Navy's radar is the recruitment of more women into the force.

Just seven per cent of its manpower are female - a figure the Navy plans to double in the next 10 to 15 years, matching other developed navies worldwide. But the Navy Chief said this requires not only family-friendly policies, but mindset changes too.

He said: "If you look at our numbers, going forward if we don’t recruit more women, we can’t man all our positions. So to the men in the Navy, or in the armed forces who refuse this, the choice is simple - you either have that post not filled, or you have a woman who comes in, serves effectively for 20 to 25 years, but is away for maternity every now and then only.

"So that’s a choice for us, and it’s a very stark reality. You need to recognise that women also bring great value, especially in an advanced armed forces where technology is key - where there's less heavy lifting, physical strength, but (more of) mental strength, leadership, character and values."

And as the Navy equips itself with the latest technologies, it is also looking at how this can enable NS manpower to be better utilised.

RADM Lai said: "We don’t see larger ships, newer ships crewed by NSmen because you really need more mature platforms. (We see) NSmen augmenting the crews of these ships, whether the Landing Ship Tanks or the frigates. And as we shift very decisively to using unmanned systems, the units that are operating these systems can be NS units."

He said he hopes as much as a quarter of the fleet could use unmanned systems, fully operated by NS units from the word "go".


The Republic of Singapore Navy Replenishment At Sea approaches (RASAPS) with RSS Formidable frigate.


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