To enhance its ability to deal with evolving security threats, the elite forces of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - such as the Army's commandos and the Navy's Naval Diving Unit (NDU) - will now come together under one command structure. The recently established Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) is an integrated grouping that will provide the SAF with expanded capacity to carry out special operations, counter-terrorism operations and contingency operations.
"With the establishment of SOTF, we are better able to handle any kind of security threats or incidents that will harm homeland security," said Colonel (COL) Lam Shiu Tong, Commander SOTF and Chief Commando Officer.
Apart from homeland security threats, the SOTF will enhance international security, particularly on the high seas. The SOTF will have capabilities to intercept ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This complements the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an agreement between 100 countries that allows PSI states to intercept and detain materials found on board ships registered in signatory nations. Singapore has been a part of the PSI since 2004.
The SOTF will also be directly responsible for evacuation and diverse rescue operations. Specifically, elements from the SOTF can be deployed to evacuate Singaporeans out of harm's way in any part of the world, should the need arise. In addition, SOTF troopers will be involved in the rescue of hostages and even distressed submariners.
To meet the diverse operational needs, special forces from the Army, Navy and other SAF combat forces can be assigned to the SOTF to conduct operations.
With the joint headquarters, the SOTF set-up will include planners from the Air Force and Navy. They will tap on their Service-specific knowledge to mobilise resources for SOTF missions, thus shortening the time taken to respond when they are activated.
These Air and Naval planners will also fulfil the training, operation and capability development role of the SOTF with regards to Air and Naval support.
To develop a common understanding between the special forces, SOTF troopers will now be required to undergo an eight-month Special Forces Qualification Course that will impart the fundamentals to them. Following that, they will head back to their respective units for specialised courses.
The NDU will still drive the doctrine development and training related to diving as they are the Subject Matter Experts (SME) on the matter. Likewise, the commandos will do so for parachute operations.
"We are not losing our individual identities as Divers and Commandos, but gaining a valuable partner in each other's skill sets," said Colonel Tan Tai Tiong, Commander NDU and Deputy Commander SOTF.
Even with all their added responsibilities, the SOTF will continue to hone their core skills in war-time special operations. Using various methods of insertion, SOTF troopers will be deployed deep into enemy territory to conduct operations for strategic effect during war-time operations.
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