Military history of Singapore


Colonial period

World War II



Konfrontasi was a policy of confrontation by Indonesia from 1963 to 1966, in opposition to the formation of Malaysia from the Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore. While there was no all-out war, there were numerous raids by Indonesian volunteers on targets within then-Malaysia, which included Singapore. The Philippines were aligned with Indonesia due to its claim for Sabah. It broke off diplomatic relations with Malaysia, but did not participate in the hostilities.

One of the raids the MacDonald House bombing on 10 March 1965 by two Indonesian saboteurs. Two people were killed and thirty three were injured.[1] The saboteurs were caught, and they turned out to be from the Korps Marinir.[citation needed] They were subsequently tried and executed, despite great pressure from Indonesia. In later years, the executions remained a source of unhappiness in Singapore-Indonesian relations. Lee Kwan Yew later sprinkled flowers on the graves of the Marines, helping heal the rift between the two countries.[2]

During Konfrontasi, the First and Second Singapore Infantry Regiments (1 SIR and 2 SIR) were placed under Malaysian command and deployed in various parts of Malaya to fight the saboteurs. Local defence was the responsibility of the Singapore Volunteer Corps and the Vigilante Corps.[3]

Hostilities ended with the overthrow of President Sukarno in October 1965.[3]


After Singapore's independence on 9 August 1965, strained ties with the two immediate neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia made defense a high priority. Then-PM Lee Kuan Yew appointed Goh Keng Swee to head the new Ministry of Interior and Defence. In 1966, drawing from the Israeli model, National Service was determined the best way to provide for a deterrent to potential aggressors. A Brigadier T. J.D. Campbell was appointed as the first Director of the General Staff.[4]

The first cohorts of officers and non-commissioned officers (now Specialists), taught by Israeli instructors, graduated from Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (SAFTI) in 1967. With this new cadre of leaders, army was expanded from the existing two infantry battalions to two brigades between 1967 and 1970. Efforts were made to ensure unit integrity by keeping the officers, NCOs, and men of reservist battalions together.

The Air Defence Command (now Republic of Singapore Air Force) was formed with the help of Royal Air Force in 1968. The first class of pilots receiving basic military training and general flying instructions in the new Flying Training School at Tengah Air Base, and fighter training in the UK.

The Maritime Command (now Republic of Singapore Navy) was based at Sentosa temporarily until permanent facilities at the now-defunct Brani Naval Base were ready. Two gunboats were built by the British and Germans in 1969; subsequent models were built locally, entering service in 1970. The ex-USS Thrasher and USS Whippoorwill (commissioned RSS Jupiter and RSS Mercury) minesweepers and County-class tank landing ships were purchased from the United States subsequently.

Start of the defense industry

In 1967, the Sheng-Li Holding Company (Simplified Chinese: 胜利; pinyin: sheng li; translated: victory) was established under the Ministry of Defence to promote the local defense industry. By the 1970s, Singapore was producing small arms (the M-16) through Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS) and small arms, mortar, and artillery ammunition through Chartered Ammunition Industries for local use and export. Sheng-Li Holdings was later restructured into Singapore Technologies (now ST Engineering) in 1989, the parent of ST Kinetics.[5] ST Kinetics produces the indigenous SAR-21 and Bionix AFV today. Others, either locally designed or locally-owned designs, such as the Ultimax 100, SAR-80, SR-88, FH-88, and FH-2000 were also produced.

Peacetime emergency

Humanitarian aid

Peacekeeping in Iraq

Peacekeeping in East Timor

See also



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