Singapore Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF; aka Singapore Defense Force): Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, Republic of Singapore Air Force (includes air defense), Digital and Intelligence Service; Ministry of Home Affairs: Singapore Police Force (includes Police Coast Guard and the Gurkha Contingent) (2023)

note 1: the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) was stood up as the fourth SAF service in October of 2022

note 2:
the Gurkha Contingent of the Singapore Police Force (GCSPF) is a paramilitary unit for riot control and acts as a rapid reaction force 

note 3: in 2009, Singapore established a multi-agency national Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF) to work with law enforcement and maritime agencies to guard Singapore’s waters, including conducting daily patrols, as well as boarding and escort operations in the Singapore Strait; the MSTF is subordinate to the Singapore Navy

Military expenditures

2.9% of GDP (2022 est.)

3% of GDP (2021 est.)

3% of GDP (2020)

2.9% of GDP (2019)

2.9% of GDP (2018)

Military and security service personnel strengths

information varies; approximately 60,000 active duty troops (45,000 Army; 7,000 Navy; 8,000 Air Force) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SAF has a diverse and largely modern mix of domestically produced and imported weapons; in recent years, the US has been the chief supplier of arms; other significant suppliers include France, Germany, Israel, and Sweden; Singapore has the most developed arms industry in Southeast Asia and is also its largest importer of weapons (2022)

Military service age and obligation

18-21 years of age for compulsory military service for men; 16.5 years of age for voluntary enlistment (with parental consent); 24-month conscript service obligation, with a reserve obligation to age 40 (enlisted) or age 50 (officers); women are not conscripted, but they are allowed to volunteer for all services and branches, including combat arms (2023)

note 1: under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, unless exempted, are required to enter National Service (NS) upon attaining the age of 18; most NS conscripts serve in the Armed Forces, but some go into the Police Force or Civil Defense Force; conscripts comprise over half of the defense establishment

note 2: as of 2019, women made up about 8% of the active force

note 3: members of the Gurkha Contingent (GC) of the Singapore Police Force are mostly recruited from a small number of hill tribes in Nepal; the GC was formed in 1949 originally from selected ex-British Army Gurkhas

Military deployments

maintains permanent training detachments of military personnel in Australia, France, and the US (2022)

Military - note

the SAF's roots go back to 1854 when the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps was formed under colonial rule; the first battalion of regular soldiers, the First Singapore Infantry Regiment, was organized in 1957; the modern SAF was established in 1965 and is today widely viewed as the best equipped military in Southeast Asia; the SAF’s primary responsibility is external defense, but it has trained for certain domestic security operations, including joint deterrence patrols with police in instances of heightened terrorism alerts; the Army is organized into 3 combined arms divisions and a “people’s defense force,” a divisional headquarters responsible for homeland security and counterterrorism; the Army is based largely on 2-year conscripts and reservists with a small cadre of professional soldiers, and Army units are comprised of a mix of active duty and cadre/reserve battalions that are filled out by reservists upon mobilization; the Air Force and Navy are primarily comprised of professionals; the Air Force has over 100 modern US-origin combat aircraft, plus squadrons for anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol, early warning, surveillance, and logistical support, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and attack helicopters; the Navy’s principal combat vessels are a mix of about 20 frigates, corvettes, and littoral combat ships (comparable to a corvette in capabilities), plus a few submarines 

Singapore is a member of the Five Powers Defense Arrangements (FPDA), a series of mutual assistance agreements reached in 1971 embracing Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK; the FPDA commits the members to consult with one another in the event or threat of an armed attack on any of the members and to mutually decide what measures should be taken, jointly or separately; there is no specific obligation to intervene militarily (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reported that incidents in the Singapore Straits continue to increase year on year with 38 in 2022 compared to 35 in 2021; vessels were successfully boarded in all 38 incidents in 2022; while the majority of vessels boarded reported incidents as predominately low-level opportunistic thefts, four crew were taken hostage and a further two threatened during these incidents; the majority of incidents were reported during the hours of darkness and while vessels were underway; the territorial and offshore waters in the South China Sea remain a high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia; crews have been murdered or cast adrift

NOTE: The information regarding Singapore on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Singapore 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Singapore 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.