Resuming large-scale overseas exercises, digitalised training systems: How Singapore Army plans to move on from COVID-19

Brigadier-General David Neo sat down with the media to address the Army’s plans in the post-pandemic future and the significance of NS55.

Caleb Lau

Grew up a musician, found a calling in photography and writing. Still in love with all of them.

Published: 26 May 2022, 11:55 AM

As Singapore transitions into an endemic phase, the Singapore Army plans to return to pre-pandemic levels of training and autonomise more of its operations. 

Fielding media queries on May 25, Brigadier-General (BG) David Neo discussed the resumption of large-scale overseas exercises, the steps taken to combat emerging threats in the digital sphere and the new adjustments to the Army’s training systems.

He also mentioned what the upcoming Army Open House, which opens to the public on May 28, meant to the Army.


Singapore Army plans covid 19
Joining the Singapore Armed Forces in 1996 and later becoming a Commando Officer, BG Neo assumed his new post as Chief of Army on Mar 10 this year. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


Here are the key points of what BG Neo said that Singaporean youths should take note of:

Resumption of large-scale exercises

The Army aims to fully return back to pre-COVID levels of training by the end of the year, BG Neo said. 


In-camp training pre-covid
Earlier this year, the Army achieved 84 per cent of pre-COVID levels of training, based on factors like the mobilisation exercises conducted, the numbers of in-camp trainings as well as training pace. PHOTO: MINDEF


To achieve the goal, he said overseas training exercises like Exercise Wallaby in Australia and bilateral exercises with the Indonesian army will resume.

In the interview, BG Neo emphasised that the wellbeing of servicemen is priority, and that the adjustments will move in tandem with the nation’s protocols on safe management measures.

Referencing in-camp trainings, he said interactions have remained limited by conducting activities in small groups and that NSmen are required to use antigen rapid test kits and swab tests to give assurance to them and their families back home. 

BG Neo said: “It is a deliberate and calibrated approach to ramp up our efforts. 

“We have larger groups of commanders to do recce to ensure training grounds are safe and evacuation routes are valid, so no efforts are spared.”

Manpower redistribution in line with new Digital and Intelligence Service

In line with the Singapore Armed Forces’ intent to launch the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) by the end of the year, BG Neo said 1,600 jobs and 89 vocations have been created.

He said: “The threats of tomorrow are different, and small nations cannot take defence for granted.

“The Army has to be ready to face new challenges and demands such as cyber defence and electronic warfare.”


nation's defence servicemen duties
With the new shift, BG Neo said national servicemen who previously could not qualify for many duties are now able to directly contribute to the nation’s defence. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/@MINDEF


In the interview, he also mentioned the ongoing experimentations with manned-unmanned teaming, which pairs robots and humans to autonomise modes of operations. 

By using robots like unmanned aerial vehicles, soldiers can better handle tasks of today without requiring high standards of physique, he said.

Digitalisation of training systems

To modernise the Army’s operations and training, simulation systems will be introduced to carry out exercises that are difficult to conduct physically. 

BG Neo said: “In division exercises, which involve more than 10,000 soldiers, this can allow some to be at the local division headquarters and troops to operate overseas like Australia.

“Wherever the troops are, training data will be recorded and physical training is optimised.”

For returning reservists, he said initiatives like Smart Armskote and Smart Store have been introduced to facilitate transactions and reduce manual counting.


Smart Armskote scan 11B
Introduced in 2019, the Smart Armskote only requires servicemen to scan their 11B and faces before drawing and returning their weapon. PHOTO CREDIT: MINDEF


“By making operations more efficient and effective, we save an hour of our soldiers’ time every day,” BG Neo said.

The significance of NS55

Beyond showcasing the Army’s hardware and software, BG Neo said the upcoming Army Open House 2022 is a special occasion as it also commemorates 55 years of National Service.


Army open house 2022 f1 pit building
The main showcase of Army Open House 2022 at the F1 Pit Building will run from May 28 to 30. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


“We recognise that our national servicemen draw strength from their families, so we want to acknowledge them,” he said. 

In the interview, BG Neo emphasised the continued maintenance of soldiers’ safety.

He said: “Even though we are a conscript army, our soldiers are as important as our regular counterparts. It is the duty of every army commander to ensure that every soldier that comes through our gates becomes a better soldier.”

BG Neo also lauded the efforts of soldiers and officers who volunteered to render aid to about 3,000 migrant workers during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and said they “embraced the challenge very well”.

NS55 is special for the Army especially in the current challenges, and we want to recognise those who continue to protect Singapore, he said.

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