SINGAPORE - The Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Aaron Beng, will take over from Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong as the Chief of Defence Force (CDF) on March 24. He will be the first naval officer to serve as head of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) since its formation in 1972.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Wednesday that the change is part of the “ongoing process of leadership renewal in the Singapore Armed Forces”.
Mindef said LG Ong will serve in the Public Service after he steps down from his military role, but did not elaborate further. RADM Sean Wat Jianwen, the Navy’s current Fleet Commander, will take over as the Chief of Navy on March 10.
Since he enlisted in 1994, LG Ong, 47, has held multiple senior command and staff appointments, including head of the Joint Plans and Transformation Department, which oversees the SAF’s longer-term transformation efforts.
He was also the Chief Guards Officer, and was the Chief of Army prior to his appointment as CDF in March 2018.
Under his watch, the SAF hastened its transformation efforts to adapt to a rapidly changing operational environment. Changes included the introduction of the SAF’s fourth arm – the Digital and Intelligence Service – and the launch of the Republic of Singapore Navy’s (RSN) Invincible-class submarines.
LG Ong led the SAF’s response during the Covid-19 pandemic, including overseeing the formation of various task forces, such as that for contact tracing and home recovery, to support the Government’s efforts.
In 2015, he also led the organisation of the Golden Jubilee National Day Parade celebrations.
On an international front, LG Ong has helped to raise the SAF’s international standing, said Mindef.
He was in charge of the Singapore contingent that oversaw relief efforts in the wake of a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011, working together with the New Zealand Defence Force.
Mindef said the SAF enhanced Singapore’s peace and security under LG Ong’s leadership, citing his involvement in high-profile security operations, which included the Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit and the 33rd Asean Summit, both of which took place in 2018.
He also spearheaded in 2022 the launch of the Counter-Terrorism Information Facility, a facility in Singapore for South-east Asian countries to enhance cooperation in tackling terrorism and to share intelligence.
“Mindef expresses its deep appreciation to LG Ong for his sterling leadership and outstanding contributions to the SAF,” said the ministry.
Meanwhile, RADM Beng, 41, joined the SAF in 2000.
He was awarded the President’s Scholarship and SAF Overseas Scholarship, and held several command and staff appointments, such as Commanding Officer of the Frigate Squadron and Chief of Staff – Naval Staff, prior to becoming navy chief in March 2020.
Under his leadership, the RSN went through organisational changes such as the operationalisation of the Maritime Security and Response Flotilla to protect Singapore’s territorial waters, and the launch of the second and third Invincible-class submarines.
RADM Beng was in charge of the inter-agency Crisis Management Group dealing with maritime security risks, and was also responsible for maritime security operations during major national events, including National Day celebrations and the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat held in Bintan in 2022.
The incoming navy chief, RADM Wat, 39, has been part of the SAF since 2002 and has held appointments such as Commanding Officer of the Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme, director of the Defence Policy Office, and Fleet Commander.