Tag Archives: Navy

Who’ll get the Lion’s share?

In the last week, during a visit to the People’s Republic of China, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng En Hen has reaffirmed bilateral military ties between the two countries with his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie. Since the Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation was signed in 2008, there have been regular exchanges between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the People’s Liberation Army, port calls, joint courses, seminars, and a counter-terrorism exercise. But China is not the only suitor trying to woo the Lion City-state. Earlier this month, Mr Ng also met with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, with the two agreeing that America could deploy up to four Littoral Combat Ships out of Singapore on a rotational basis, with the first due to arrive in the second quarter of next year. In addition, its Changi naval base was designed from the outset to accommodate ships up to the size of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, way beyond the country’s own capabilities. With China becoming increasingly assertive towards its neighbours in the first island chain it see as its sphere of influence, followed by America’s pivot towards Asia in support of its regional allies and the advent of Air-Sea Battle to meet the Chinese threat, Singapore may be forced to choose between its two military partners.

Singapore’s Formidable-class stealth frigates – but which side could they end up on?

Though Singapore’s military relationship with the US stretches back further, the country has always had an ethnocentric strategic outlook. At the time of its secession from the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965, Singapore only possessed around 1,000 armed servicemen. This and the republic’s small population of approximately four million, prompted Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to introduce national service from 14 March 1967. Another major factor behind this was that the majority of those personnel, particularly senior officers, we’re Malay and Indian. With Singapore having a Chinese majority population, and with Malaysia seen as the country’s main threat at the time, Malays were excluded from the draft for its first ten years as Chinese filled out the armed forces’ ranks and were swiftly promoted. Even when Malays were included after 1977, they were assigned to the police and civil defence, not combat roles. The Second Minister for Defence, Lee Hsien Loong, stated in 1987 that “If there is a conflict, if the SAF is called to defend the homeland, we do not want to put any of our soldiers in a difficult position where his emotions for the nation may be in conflict with his religion”. Singapore’s political leaders did not trust Malays to fight against their kith and kin. Should hostilities erupt between the United States and China, can Singapore’s Chinese-dominated armed forces be expected to do the same, and does America need to think more carefully about how far it enters into the Lion’s den?

Dr Daniel Owen Spence is Lecturer in Imperial and International History at Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom, and publishes on nineteenth and twentieth century maritime history.

Big Trouble in Little Cyprus


Greek Cyproit Navy patrol boats.

As part of the EU presidency trio program, Cyprus will become the new leader of the EU council on 01 July for a 6-month term. This may seem trivial to maritime security enthusiasts until they consider the historical tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the recent oil exploration discoveries in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Since the 1974 Greek coup d’ etat and subsequent Turkish invasion the island has been hotly contested between the two mediterranean powers.  This has resulted in an isolated Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), completely reliant on the Turkish mainland, the only country to recognize the TRNC as a sovereign state. Turkey is also a non-signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and continues to contest demarcation agreements as it supports the occupied Northern Cyprus. 

As the Turkish Navy patrols the Eastern Mediterranean, it will be interesting to see how new Cypriot leadership within the EU addresses maritime security and the prominence of EU Naval Force Somalia.  With continued rotations of EUNAVFOR ships to the Horn of Africa, the cyclical transits through the Suez Canal begs for EU presence while en route.  Although unlikely, if presence operations were to increase in the immediate vicinity of Cyprus, EU warship commanders would be challenged by:

  1. Patrol boundaries, sensitive to avoid escalating tensions with Turkey
  2. The immediate vicinity of Syria’s EEZ.
  3. Acknowledging Southern Cypriot’s EEZ. Doing so simultaneously challenges Israeli maritime claims that spill over into Lebanese and Cypriot waters.

Sprints to claim oil and gas exploratory rights will not improve the cloudy Eastern Med. geo-political situation without UN involvement and agreed-upon EEZ boundaries. Until such a resolution we can only expect increased tensions.  On July 1st, Cyprus is dealt a fresh set of cards, we can only sit back and see what hand is played. More to follow.

A.J. “Squared-Away” is a husband, father, and U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer. He has deployed on patrol boats, destroyers, and aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and aboard Iraqi oil terminals. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy. 

Google’s AR Goggles


Coming soon to a bridge near you?

Project Glass


In late March Google revealed artistic mock-ups and a video (below) of what their secretive Project Glass has been developing. The answer – voice-controlled augmented reality (AR) glasses – have some interesting potential applications for military use, in particular employment aboard ships.


This was the first time an AR project garnered widespread media attention (Oakley has also since announced the development of their own AR technology), and for those not familiar with the line of research, it promises to layer additional information on top of a user’s view of the world through a device such as ocular implants or a pair of glasses.


In the video, users are able to video chat with others, plot their route around town, and interface with different databases to bring up information. Essentially, the glasses aim to deliver all the features of a smart phone while going hands-free and eliminating the time spent glancing from another view to the screen.


Setting aside the practical limitations (cell reception, costs, durability) and safety concerns (the first man-overboard recovery due to AR is likely to generate a humorous situation report), just what benefits could the navies of the world derive from AR?


  1. Bridge watchstanders. Glasses for bridge watchstanders could provide a constant “heads-up display” view of standard information such as the ship’s course and speed, preventing the need to call out for the information or walk over to a display when in a remote part of the bridge. Additional displays could be selected to show radar screens. More advanced features could make use of the embedded cameras to search maritime databases to bring up data on a ship in the watchstander’s line of sight. No need to manually check AIS, Jane’s or critical contacts of interest lists. Lastly, the voice-chat feature would be particularly welcome if it replaced the need to carry around clunky handheld radios, although many might want the option of an audio-only chat.
  2. Damage control. AR could make responding to a shipboard casualty or emergency easier with the use of interfaced damage control plotting. This could provide instant visual updates, eliminating the confusion of broken spoken communication through breathing devices, but would likely greatly increase the cost of integrating the microphones into the gear so that the responders could control the AR interface and communicate back to damage lockers and DC central.

What maritime uses and problems do you foresee with the development of AR?

Photo: Google