SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will reconfigure and expand the road network in the Safti training area so as to provide continuous manoeuvre space of mixed urban and forested environments for troops to train in more realistic settings.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who made a closed-door visit to observe a SAF rafting exercise in the area on Tuesday (March 7), said changes to the road network are part of the Army's efforts to meet future challenges by "maximising the potential of its training areas".
During the exercise, which took place from Feb 27 to March 10, Dr Ng witnessed the Army's tactical mobility capabilities as Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicles were transported across a simulated river using the Mobility 3rd Generation (M3G) Raft.
"The idea is to have our battalions be able to mimic the terrain that they would (operate in) during conventional operations, move from urban terrain to natural terrain such as this, where there are axes to be crossed, and river bodies or water bodies to traverse.
"That will take us a good part of a decade, but it is a significant investment and the general idea is that we want to maximise the resources given to us," he was quoted as saying in a statement released on Thursday (March 9) by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
Dr Ng announced last Friday in Parliament during a debate on Mindef's budget that a new training area - dubbed Safti City - would be built in the Safti training area for soldiers to train in realistic settings.
The 88ha area - the size of Bishan town - will have a sector packed with shophouse clusters, high-rise interconnected buildings, low-rise residences, basement carparks, a bus interchange and even an MRT station with multiple exits.
Another sector located near the Poyan Reservoir will house a petrochemical complex, warehouses, container parks and industrial buildings.
Separately, new grounds for infantry and armoured vehicle drills will be developed in three existing training areas of Pasir Laba, Ama Keng and the Murai Urban Training Facility, where training scenarios - called Instrumented Battle Circuits - can be simulated.
Dr Ng had described Safti City, which will cost about $900 million and take about a decade to build, as part of Singapore's efforts to build world- class training facilities here and "guard against over-dependence on overseas training grounds".
During his visit on Tuesday, Dr Ng also experienced piloting the M3G, and interacted with active personnel and Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) participating in the rafting exercise, which involves about 1,100 personnel from the Headquarters Singapore Combat Engineers and 35th Battalion Singapore Combat Engineers.
Speaking at the end of the visit, Dr Ng underscored the important role that combat engineers play as a vital support arm of the Army, such as in facilitating the movement of troops across obstacles such as rivers.
Dr Ng, who was accompanied by Chief of Army Major-General Melvyn Ong and senior SAF commanders, also spoke about the value of the exercise in honing the army's operational capabilities and readiness.
He said: "This is a very useful exercise. During National Day, many Singaporeans will be familiar with our M3G rafts in Marina Bay for the 21-gun (presidential) salute.
"But beyond the ceremonial functions, the real function of the M3G rafts is to allow the SAF to cross water bodies... I think it is a great boost for the SAF to be able to test these capabilities, and use these rafts for what they were meant for."
Mindef said on Thursday (March 9) that "the training transformation efforts will allow the Army to hone its ability to operate continuously across different terrains, and conduct realistic training to meet the needs of the Next Gen Army".
Dr Ng also applauded the professionalism displayed by the national servicemen participating in the exercise, adding that a strong and effective SAF is only made possible by the commitment of the NSmen.
"We are full of confidence (in what) they have done. They understand the challenge, and they are very competent," he added.