Despite small size, Singapore is heavily armed
August 22, 2000
By ANNA SATHIAH
Associated Press Writer
FOR decades, this small city-state has been an oasis of peace and prosperity in southeast Asia, a region known for its poverty and instability.
A string of Western corporations opened regional headquarters here, knowing its free-market economy, modern infrastructure, shopping malls and top-flight health care would make executives and their families feel right at home.
Yet, despite that calm, Singapore spends more on defense than many of its much bigger neighbors. Its multibillion-dollar defense budget pays for modern tanks, warplanes and submarines for its military and nuclear fallout shelters for civilians.
By any measure, its defense capabilities are huge for a country that is one-15,000th the size of the United States.
Its military "is quite substantial and out of proportion to the military threat" in the region, says Robert Karniol, the Asia-Pacific editor for Jane's Defense Weekly, a respected defense journal.
Nearly 10 percent of its 3.2 million people are in the military - 50,000 as full-time professionals and 250,000 on standby as reservists. By comparison, neighboring Malaysia has a military estimated at 115,000 men and Indonesia has about 300,000.
[A different source (or maybe more updated source) reports Singapore as having 72,000 frontline and 950,000 reserves. Malaysia as having 110,000 frontline and 300,000 reserves, and Indonesia having 476,000 frontline and 400,000 reserves. The figures are quite different, but the point is the same.]
Singapore's strong emphasis on defense through deterrence is the result of its turbulent history.
The island still has bad memories from World War II, when Japanese troops invaded the then British colony from Malaya. In 1965, two years [after] being cut loose by London, it was expelled from the Malaysian federation, with which it has had periodic disputes.
Since then, Singapore has kept a wary eye on the region, which has seen major wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, political instability in Thailand and ethnic and political unrest in Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar.
As a state with an ethnic Chinese majority, it sits nervously between its two much bigger direct neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia, which have large Muslim majorities.
Despite its limited resources, space and manpower, Singapore has made defense a key pillar of its national agenda. A Defense Ministry manual titled "Defending Singapore in the 21st Century" clearly defines the goal: total defense that encompasses all aspects of society.
Constitutionally, the government can spend up to 6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product on defense each year. For the current financial year, the defense budget totals S$7.4 billion (US$ 4.3 billion), or within the 4 percent-5 percent range of recent years.
By comparison, Thailand's current military spending is 1.5 percent of GDP, Malaysia's is 2.1 percent and Indonesia's 1.7 percent, according to official reports and estimates.
Singapore keeps its military up to strength with the draft, while most countries in the region, including Malaysia and Indonesia, do not have compulsory military service.
Every able-bodied Singaporean male must do 2 or 2 1/2 years of full-time military duty. Afterward, he undergoes annual training for 13 years. Warrant officers and specialist remain liable for service until age 40 and officers until age 50.
Military service is tough, Jason Ng, a 26-year-old who now works in sales and marketing, says of his army stint that began six years ago.
"They really push you to the limit," he says.
Singapore's current focus is on boosting military technology and strengthening defense ties with other countries to better cope with future conflicts as well as unconventional threats such as terrorism and cyber-crime.
The island has military ties with many other countries and with alliances such as the Five Power Defense Arrangement - which includes Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Britain - and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Singapore also has agreements that allow it to train its servicemen in other countries and store some of its military equipment there.
Feb 15 2006
- A convergence of the user, developer and producer has provided Singapore with the region's most sophisticated defence sector
- The foundation of its defence sector is built on Singapore's long-standing investment in personnel and facilities, together with an expansion of R&D funding
- This 'ecosystem' is of growing importance in promoting development of the third-generation Singapore Armed Forces
Quek Tong Boon, Deputy Defence Secretary for Technology and Transformation, has a neat turn of phrase to describe Singapore's tightly intertwined defence sector: he calls it a 'defence ecosystem'.
"We've been using this term for two or three years," he said, noting its origin in the corporate management world. "There are so many players in the defence community and there is a lot of interdependency between them. There's a lot of interplay and co-evolution, so we thought the term 'ecosystem' appropriate - and more so in recent years."
Basic components in Singapore's defence ecosystem include the user, the developers and the producers, together with their operating environment. All are closely linked, from shared interests to cross-posted personnel. The country's compact nature promotes this tightly co-ordinated approach.
"Transformation is obviously not something we can achieve simply by buying off the shelf. We need to experiment and discover, to engage in research and development (R&D) and to contextualise new ideas to our own unique operational needs and demands," Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean noted in an address. "In our third-generation (3G) transformation journey, technology is therefore more than just a force multiplier: it is also an enabler and a catalyst."
This effort was originally centred on three key thrusts: developing the local defence industry; building up a pool of specialised personnel to form the nucleus of Singapore's engineering and R&D efforts; and developing R&D capabilities. These remain the basis for developing capabilities in acquisition, maintenance, design, manufacturing and production, upgrading and R&D.
The Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) evolution since they were formed with Singapore's full independence in 1965 has involved three distinct phases and these are paralleled in the broader defence sector. Increasing sophistication is the factor common to both.
The first-generation SAF saw concentration placed on building up the individual services over the 1970s and 1980s, while the second-generation (2G) SAF involved a period of consolidation, emphasising tri-service integration. The concurrent 2G force modernisation started in the early 1990s and several new capabilities have been introduced or will become operational in the next few years. Efforts to develop the 3G SAF, focused on network-centric warfare and other futuristic concepts, began in earnest at the turn of the millennium.
In the defence sector, licensed production largely characterised the first phase of SAF development and upgrades the second. Licensed production activity was typified by the manufacture of US-designed M16 assault rifles and ammunition by Chartered Industries, since absorbed into the Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering group. Upgrades included the application of locally developed components to platforms such as the M113 armoured personnel carrier and E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The defence ecosystem only began to approach maturity in the transformational lead-up to the 3G SAF. Singapore has developed increasingly advanced components, particularly in electronics and information technology, as well as its own selective range of platforms. Among the latter are the Skyblade II mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and Fantail mini-vertical takeoff and landing UAV, Spider light strike vehicle and 155 mm/39-cal Pegasus lightweight self-propelled howitzer.
Other indigenous products include the Long-Range Reconnaissance and Observation System from ST Electronics and the 40 mm family of air-bursting munitions from ST Kinetics.
This has come about through investment in personnel and in facilities and an expansion of defence R&D spending from 1 per cent of the defence budget around a decade ago to 4 per cent today. There have been restructurings to improve efficiency and new activity overseas, the latter including both investment and collaborative research.
"The 3G requirement calls for higher payoffs but there are higher risks as well. This means that the shape and form of the ecosystem will have to change," said ST Engineering Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tan Pheng Hock. "In today's culture, you are not sure if what you develop will work. It is a risk-sharing process and an incremental one. That is going to change relationships, contracting mechanisms, trust and risk."
Brigadier General Neo Kian Hong is director of the SAF's Joint Operations and Planning Directorate (JOPD). Together with operational commands and staff appointments, his background includes a postgraduate degree in technology from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"In simple terms, 2G is about platforms and 3G is about the connectivity of these platforms. Then there's another layer to 3G, which is the cognitive level," Gen Neo said of the SAF's current focus. His responsibilities include overseeing the SAF's R&D activity and budget. Most of this funding is distributed to the services and some is retained centrally.
The SAF's technological development is guided by three phases: creation of concepts to meet operational requirements, experimentation and exploitation. The first of these is determined through operational experience, bilateral training and interactions with established armed forces and by contacts with industry and developments in technology. It is also shaped by the SAF's Future Systems Directorate, launched in 2003 and independently funded at 1 per cent of the defence budget to explore new operational concepts and by integrated operations modelling.
In the second stage, technologies and concepts are put through a process of experimentation. These experiments are often incorporated into training exercises for evaluation and involve troops, force planners and technologists.
Then, in the exploitation phase, those results that have proven successful are made operational.
"At each stage, it's not just the SAF involved. There are integrated teams that include representatives from the research side and from industry," Gen Neo pointed out. Although the services pursue their individual R&D priorities, the approach has become increasingly integrated over the past two or three years.
The central aim is to enhance the SAF's capability set, with each service looking to what it can contribute.
Another factor involves 'spiral development', with equipment locally modified or upgraded over time. The main idea is to introduce technology quickly onto the ground.
"There is a new understanding that the capability on offer may provide, say, 80 per cent of the solution but we're happy enough because we have something to operate with," said Gen Neo. Then, he added: "There's also a new catch-phrase called 'systems engineering', meaning we are no longer interested in just a platform. We're looking at all these [individual] systems working as a [broader] system."
Further spicing this mix, the scope of the SAF's mission has expanded. Once focused exclusively on the conventional defence of Singapore, it has more recently become involved in operations other than war, such as international peacekeeping operations together with disaster relief and homeland security. This has produced new requirements. ST Electronics, for example, field-tested its compact and highly portable laptop-based satellite communication system, the 'miniV', during the SAF tsunami relief operation in Indonesia.
"When we operationalise a weapon system, it's important to ensure that we have in place a very robust, rigorous and responsive logistics system to support it," said Quek Tong Boon, highlighting another role for Singapore's defence technology community.
During the product development phase, this translates into the need to design for maintainability and reliability. "In a way we are trying to adopt a philosophy of 'pit stop' engineering, like in Formula One [car racing]: to make the product very easy to maintain, reliable and to minimise the logistics tail as much as possible," said Sew Chee Jhuen, President of Defence Business for ST Kinetics.
Industry is also increasingly involved in support activities as the SAF outsources these functions. ST Kinetics supports all the army's fighting vehicles, guns and light vehicles. ST Aerospace supports aircraft like the C-130 transport and KC-135 tanker, as well as providing training packages to the air force that include its own platforms together with support.
ST Electronics and ST Marine, the other core components of ST Engineering, do the same in their respective fields. Similarly, Semb Corp Industries handles much of the army's logistics and does the same for the navy at its Changi Naval Base.
Returning to capabilities, Gen Neo says that the SAF's 3G transformation is basically centred on three areas: integrated knowledge-based command and control, unmanned systems and precision strike capabilities. "Development is always ongoing," he noted.
Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) sets policies and goals and allocates resources. The SAF establishes requirements. Implementation is then channelled through MINDEF's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA); the Defence Science Organisation's (DSO's) National Laboratories is the main R&D service provider (see box).
DSTA is MINDEF's technology arm. It is involved in acquisition, development, systems engineering and R&D management. It also oversees development and maintenance of military infrastructure as well as engineering services.
The organisation was launched as a statutory board in March 2000 to replace the Defence Technology Group, which had been in place since 1986 and it incorporates several related units under a more flexible structure.
"If you ask me what is the core competency of DSTA, I'd say it is our ability to design, architect, build and maintain very complex defence systems. We call this large-scale systems engineering," said Richard Lim Cherng Yih, DSTA's Chief Executive.
Lim's organisation evaluates SAF requirements and decides whether these are best pursued through acquisitions or development, in either case managing the project. "Our business is to translate what MINDEF and the SAF want into capabilities," he affirmed.
DSTA does this through several core activities. The current structure has these organised in two main blocks: technology and business centres, including areas such as procurement and command, control, communication, computers and intelligence (C4I) technology services; and defence programme management divisions, including such areas as technology and systems management. The directorate of R&D is also part of the latter block while, separately, there is a unit charged with relations and industry development.
A re-organisation, due for implementation on 1 April, will include these two blocks shifting to become resource centres and programme centres. One key change involves enhancing the acquisition process by creating a centre for systems architecture and master planning.
"This new centre's focus is to bring the various disciplines together in order to develop integrated architectural frameworks to address complex system-of-systems solutions to operational problems," said Lim.
A strong commitment to education and training underlies this activity. The DSTA offers an extensive range of scholarships in science and engineering at both the undergraduate and post -graduate level, involving local and overseas institutions alike. It has worked with the US Naval Postgraduate School and the National University of Singapore (NUS) to develop a post- graduate programme in systems engineering.
These are complemented by the DSTA College, established in August 2004. "The main focus is to ensure that DSTA engineers, together with people from the SAF and industry, can get together and discuss real-world case studies.
It is the practice that's important and not so much the theory," said Lim. "We have to build up a framework to pass along the knowledge within DSTA."
DSO National Laboratories, which focuses on applied research, is the DSTA's main supplier of R&D services. Upstream research is handled by Temasek Laboratories at the NUS and Nanyang Technological University.
The former was launched in 2000 and the latter in 2003. R&D activity also extends to industry and to collaborative programmes with overseas institutes, the latter mainly linked into government-to-government agreements.
"This is the whole picture of the defence ecosystem," said Quek Tong Boon. "At the core are MINDEF, the SAF, DSTA and DSO, then the two Temasek laboratories, our defence industry and dual-use R&D expertise that we can tap from our tertiary institutions and research institutes. We also consider our international partners and relevant parts of the private sector as integral to our defence technology ecosystem."
ST Engineering dominates the defence industry in Singapore to a degree unseen elsewhere in the region and perhaps beyond. It has four main subsidiaries: ST Aerospace, ST Electronics, ST Kinetics and ST Marine. Beyond these there are over 100 other subsidiaries in 17 countries.
The group enjoyed a solid performance in Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05), which CEO Tan Pheng Hock characterised as "not too bad in a difficult year". Group turnover and profit before tax both rose by 13 per cent over FY04 to SGD3.34 billion (USD2.06 billion) and SGD503.2 million respectively. Profit after tax grew by 12 per cent to SGD396.3 million, with the trend in all three areas moving further upward in the second half.
Turnover in the aerospace sector rose by 11 per cent to SGD1.24 billion, in electronics by 12 per cent to SGD701 million, in land systems by 1 per cent to SGD600 million and in marine by 36 per cent to SGD660 million. The contribution from other activities was up by 10 per cent to SGD141 million.
Two broad trends are evident. The first of these involves a growing emphasis on commercial business activity as contrasted with defence-related activity, the former contributing 54 per cent of group turnover in FY05 against 51 per cent in FY04.
The second centres on overseas investment, which is largely concentrated on commercial enterprises and has burgeoned over the past five years.
Both are evident in the group's three main overseas acquisitions in FY05: Specialised Vehicle Corp in the US, which will bolster the ST Kinetics portfolio; SAS Component in Denmark, which will ramp up ST Aerospace operations in Europe; and iDirect in the US, specialising in ground-based satellite communications technology, which will complement ST Electronics' strength in the global very small aperture terminal market.
ST Engineering is a publicly listed company controlled by Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd, which holds a 55.7 per cent interest. Temasek, in turn, is owned by Singapore's Ministry of Finance.
Both are driven by commercial imperatives but, in the case of ST Engineering, its corporate strength helps sustain the group's strategic mission of nourishing the SAF.
ST Aerospace is mainly involved in support services. ST Electronics, ST Kinetics and ST Marine are primarily manufacturers. However, particularly in the area of defence, there is some crossover of activity.
ST Aerospace produces UAVs, for example, while the other three companies often provide the SAF with support for the platforms and systems they provide.
ST Aerospace is the world's largest commercial provider of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work with operations in Asia, Europe and the US. In the defence area, this is illustrated by its recent five-year contract to support the entire US Air Force C-130 Hercules transport fleet in Asia.
Work for the SAF includes support for a full range of aircraft, most recently extended to include CH-47D Chinook and AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters. This extends overseas to cover S.211 jet trainers based in Australia and A-4SU Super Skyhawk advanced jet trainers based in France.
"We've just completed F-5 fighter upgrades in Turkey and Brazil. More recently, we won a multiconfiguration conversion programme for the Royal New Zealand Air Force involving two Boeing 757 aircraft," said ST Aerospace President Tay Kok Khiang of another activity field. Upgrades for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) have lately expanded to include the AS 332M Super Puma helicopter.
"There are three dimensions that we aim to focus our business on," said Tay. "The first involves continuing to develop our technological capabilities in manned military platforms. You'll see us putting more capabilities into upgrading and integrating new technologies. The second is in the unmanned area. The scale here is much smaller and we would be open to look into production. The third dimension centres on commercial platforms and we look to continue growing our commercial MRO work on a global basis."
There is a new area, as well.
"A few months ago we were awarded the RSAF Rotary Wing Course (RWC) contract and we are now bidding for the Basic Wing Course (BWC).
These follow from the Transport Wing Course (TWC) we launched in 2003," said Tay. All aim to provide pilot training for the RSAF, with ST Aerospace both owning and supporting the platforms.
The BWC involves a Raytheon T-6B basic turboprop trainer, the RWC five EC 120 Colibri light utility helicopters and the TWC is based on the Beechcraft King Air C90.
"Many companies collapse by virtue of the fact they go into a feeding frenzy," said Tay. "But if we really feel that something is important, we have no problem in handling it, either through acquisition or investment in capital assets."
Perhaps uniquely, ST Electronics has made use of its extensive skills in defence-related computer simulation to enter showbusiness. "We are adapting our simulation technology to move into digital media work," explained Seah Moon Ming, the company's President, of this new initiative.
"We are working with Canada's Nelvana to develop a television series and some of our animators are working with WETA of New Zealand, the latter of 'Lord of the Rings' fame."
ST Electronics has a strategic interest in dual-use technology. More traditionally, it has adapted a military C4I system to provide the Hong Kong Fire Service with a 3G mobilising system.
Other projects include a new harbour craft transponder system for the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and an automated taxi dispatch system in Taipei.
Its customer base covers more than 60 countries.
"We are the number one information communications technology company in Singapore. We provide seamless and integrated communication systems," said Seah. ST Electronics nevertheless has three core business groups, together with various subsidiaries: large-scale systems; communication and sensor systems; and software systems.
Concentrating exclusively on defence-related activity, Seah points to four areas of current focus.
These include integrated communication systems, mobile command-and-control systems, next-generation simulators and combat system integration.
"We have a series of new products in each of these areas, but we can't stop. We have to move to more advanced algorithms, software architecture and bandwidth power," he said. "You have to keep upgrading."
One example he cites is the SuperneT switch, which integrates communication systems ranging from all legacy levels to the most advanced. This is now in its fourth generation, with a fifth-generation version in development.
Seah says the company's future growth is largely tied to 'e-government', satellite communications and digital media.
The first of these involves providing systems to transform government services and operations, and the last centres on adapting simulation technology to the entertainment industry.
Satellite communications have both civil and military applications and ST Electronics already controls one-third of the world's VSAT market.
"We're moving toward two-thirds commercial versus one-third military, in terms of revenue, with the commercial area including homeland defence. Five years ago it was the other way around. Both are growing, but the rate is quicker in our commercial business," said Seah.
ST Kinetics was formed in 2000 with the merger of three separate companies, and in 2002 a restructuring was launched to better integrate activities.
"We are now organised in two main areas: the integrated systems and services (ISS) group, and the specialty vehicles and services group (SVS). It's sort of a re-alignment of capabilities, and also of focus," said Sew Chee Jhuen, the company's President of Defence Business.
The ISS group is mainly focused on defence and homeland security, with the SVS group largely involved in commercial areas. Then, within the ISS group, a re-organisation introduced in early 2005 saw this settle into five units: Advanced Material Engineering, Engineering Development Centre, Kinetics Integrated Services, Kinetics Integrated Manufacturing and Unicorn International. The last of these, Unicorn, is responsible for acquiring technologies from external sources.
"The ISS group is now better aligned with the DSO and the SAF but, on the other side, we have been slower than others in ST Engineering to evolve in commercial areas," Sew noted.
"As late as 2004 we were deriving something like 80 per cent of our sales from the defence business. We are now pursuing a strategy to strike a better balance between the two and in FY06 we expect the ratio to move toward parity."
ST Kinetics enjoys broad export opportunities for its range of defence products and is tailoring these to two bands. "For developed countries, we obviously need world-class products in order to compete, and we are lucky that the SAF is a sophisticated customer. Examples are the Pegasus lightweight howitzer and our air-burst munitions," said Sew. "However, are not going to ignore less-developed countries with fewer needs. These require reliable and very low-cost products providing value for money. For this market we have been looking at modifying our automatic grenade launcher and air-burst system to create products that are simple to use but still provide the required effect."
Sew ticks off five areas that will drive the company's further development in the defence sphere: manned and unmanned mobility; connectivity; delivering the required effect; sustainability; and safety and survivability.
"The key thing we're looking at is enhancing the warfighter's effectiveness," he said.
For ST Marine, the focus in Singapore has been very much on the Formidable-class frigate programme launched in 2000.
The first of six platforms on order was built in France but the others are being produced in Singapore, with industry sources saying that this may yet lead to Singapore establishing a competitive capability in manufacturing advanced warships.
"The five ships are in various stages of construction and the last will be completed in 2008, so we still have a few more years to go," said Han Yew Kwang, Chief Operating Officer for Defence Business, but looking forward he added: "We will have to intensify our defence marketing efforts."
Han says that the core business for ST Marine remains shipbuilding and repair, with the former contributing some 70 per cent of revenue over the longer term and the latter about 30 per cent. Within this framework, the company has moved into at least two new areas.
The first of these involves submarine maintenance, which arose from Singapore's acquisition of four ex-Swedish Navy Challenger (Sjoorman)-class boats in 1997.
ST Marine has been supporting these at Changi Naval Base and may eventually become involved in an upgrade programme, though this has yet to be determined.
The company should also have a role in supporting two Type A 17 Vastergotland-class submarines ordered from Sweden in late 2005.
The second area centres on development of unmanned surface ships. This programme is being led by ST Electronics, with ST Marine in support.
The latter's role is mainly in the selection of platforms most suitable for various operations, some of which it may then build and some it may help acquire.
The company's revenue from repair and maintenance work is largely derived from commercial work for international customers. It earned a record-breaking SGD145.5 million repairing 257 vessels in FY05.
Turnover from shipbuilding was SGD494.5 million in 2005, up 41.8 per cent largely on the back of its frigate programme. Sales in the third business area, engineering, rose 29.3 per cent against FY04 to SGD19.8 million.
"Through the frigate programme we were able to develop and position ourselves for the future," said Han.
"We now have a very good workshop, crane facilities and new machinery for welding, together with facilities to minimise the influence of the weather.
"Building the frigates also involved some new technologies that should provide benefit in the longer term."
DSO: Singapore's national R&D laboratory
The Defence Science Organisation (DSO) National Laboratories is regularly recognised under Singapore's prestigious Defence Technology Prize scheme, established in 1989 to annually acknowledge outstanding contributions in defence science and technology. However, details are often circumspect due to the classified nature of many achievements.
DSO originated in 1972 and was 'corporatised' as a not-for-profit state enterprise in 1997. Highly secretive and employing only Singaporean nationals, it has rarely spoken to the media.
"We undertake R&D for national defence and security," said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Quek Gim Pew. "Essentially, we are MINDEF's corporate R&D laboratory, working on those areas where the SAF has no overseas acquisition options. Technology surprises are the DSO mission."
Quek re-organised DSO soon after he took over in February 2004. Previously based on 15 centres of activity, he replaced these with divisions focused on five core business areas: guided systems, electronic systems, information, sensors and the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute. Overall, personnel include over 900 research scientists and engineers.
"Every project that we undertake is funded through a contract with DSTA. We are probably the only place doing research on the basis of fixed-price contracts," said Quek.
In FY05, these contracts produced revenue from defence projects of SGD244.6 million, with non-defence projects contributing SGD11.4 million for a total of SGD256 million (USD157.7 million). Expenditure was SGD250.3 million, including project costs of SGD175.3 million. Administrative expenses amounted to SGD41.1 million and operating expenses were SGD33.9 million.
"We are supposed to price the SAF on a cost-recovery basis, so whatever money we make is ploughed back into internal research. DSO also has a small amount of 'free money' from MINDEF, which allows us to undertake internally-directed research," said Quek. "Our problem is seldom an issue of cost. It's the issue of resources: human resources."
If DSTA is the agent to procure R&D services for MINDEF through its directorate of R&D, DSO is the main service provider. Other options include 'upstream' research conducted in universities and 'downstream' development in industry. Quek sees these as a means to reduce DSO's resource constraint.
Additionally, there are collaborative programmes with overseas partners. These, Quek notes, are leveraged on the bilateral relations that MINDEF has established with various countries. "Sweden has been a valuable partner. Our chemical defence setup owes a lot to the Swedes, who helped establish it," he said by way of example. Collaborative activity today involves more give and take.
DSO has also been broadening its interests. Traditionally focused almost exclusively on the SAF's conventional warfare requirements, it has since 2001 expanded its activities in the areas of homeland security and civil defence.
"Many of the home team requirements can be procured commercially. Where we come in is to optimise things that don't fully meet local conditions. We also translate some of what we have developed for the SAF to serve homeland security needs," says Quek.
And what of the Defence Technology Prize? DSO won three of five awarded in 2005 and two of four in 2004. In 2003 it gained two of five outright, with another shared.
These recognised work in biological defence, electronic systems, radar systems, underwater warfare, laser technology, artificial intelligence, chemical defence and datalink network systems. Details are scanty.