Modern-day navies will have to keep pace as new technologies emerge, and yet still remain flexible as these continue to evolve quickly, permanent secretary for defence development Chan Yeng Kit told an international gathering of naval planners and engineers on Thursday.
He added that "there is probably no single answer" to what the next game-changing technological breakthrough might be, or where it might lie, with the large number of "potential permutations of military solutions offered."
For this reason, he suggested that countries' naval planners adopt clear and long-term strategies, and still allow room for experimenting with and seeding new technologies. Modelling and simulation could be used to test the feasibility of these, just as the Singapore navy did when it introduced its Protector Unmanned Surface Vessels in 2004.
But as technologies rapidly change, they should be designed to allow ready upgrading if necessary, he said.
Both opportunities and trade-offs will present themselves, Mr Chan said during his opening remarks at the International Naval Engineering Conference at Changi Exhibition Centre.
"We may have to quickly assimilate promising technologies even if they are not fully mature," said Mr Chan. "Conversely, we have to be wary of technologies that over-promise."
About 250 delegates from more than 20 countries attended the conference, normally held in Europe but being held in Asia for the first time. It is being held in conjunction with the biennial International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference or Imdex Asia, which ends today.