Change in Chief of Defence Force and Chief of Navy

Rear-Admiral (RADM) Aaron Beng Yao Cheng will take over from Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong Su Kiat as Chief of Defence Force (CDF) on 24 March 2023. RADM Sean Wat Jianwen, Fleet Commander of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), will assume the appointment of Chief of Navy (CNV) on 10 March 2023. These changes are part of the continuing process of leadership renewal in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Outgoing CDF LG Ong, 47, has served the SAF with distinction since his enlistment in 1994. During his time in service, LG Ong held various senior command and staff appointments, including Head of the Joint Plans and Transformation Department which oversees the SAF’s longer-term transformation efforts, as well as Chief Guards Officer and Chief of Army. Of note, he commanded an SAF contingent that oversaw earthquake relief operations alongside the New Zealand Defence Force following a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch in 2011, and led the organisation of our nation’s Golden Jubilee National Day Parade celebrations in 2015.

LG Ong assumed his appointment as CDF on 23 March 2018. Under LG Ong’s leadership, the SAF enhanced Singapore’s peace and security. He led the SAF in high key security operations including the DPRK-US Singapore Summit and the 33rd ASEAN Summit in 2018. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, LG Ong led the SAF’s pandemic response and ensured that the SAF maintained a high degree of operational readiness while minimising the risk of infections. In addition, he oversaw the formation of various SAF Task Forces comprising more than 7,000 personnel to support the government’s COVID-19 operations. These included supporting contact tracing, stabilising the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories as well as scaling up of the national home recovery programme.

Under LG Ong’s stewardship, the SAF increased the pace of its next generation transformation efforts and made significant progress in several areas. Key structural shifts were initiated to enable the SAF to operate in a rapidly changing operational environment. Notably, the establishment of the SAF’s fourth Service, the Digital and Intelligence Service, has set the path the SAF to develop its capabilities in the digital battlespace, and to operate as a more integrated and networked SAF in the more complex threat landscape of the future. New warfighting capabilities were inducted into the SAF to enhance situational awareness with added lethality and flexibility. These included the completion of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF’s) Island Air Defence system, operationalisation of the Army’s Third Generation Combined Arms Division and launch of the RSN’s Invincible-Class Type-218G submarines. Advanced unmanned systems such as the RSAF’s Orbiter 4 Close-Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the RSN’s Maritime Security Unmanned Surface Vessel were added into the SAF’s capabilities. The year-long NS55 campaign was successfully executed, culminating in an integrated NS55 Parade in November 2022 to recognise our National Servicemen and reaffirm our commitment towards National Service.

Beyond our shores, LG Ong has been instrumental in fostering good defence relations and professional collaborations with foreign militaries, raising the SAF’s international standing and positioning it as a valuable defence partner regionally and internationally. The SAF stood ready to offer a helping hand to those in need. Under his charge, the SAF also conducted several major humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations such as supporting airlift operations of Afghanistan evacuees in 2021. LG Ong also led the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Information Facility which brings together Partner Nations to combat terrorism.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) expresses its deep appreciation to LG Ong for his sterling leadership and outstanding contributions to the SAF. LG Ong will continue to serve in the Public Service after he steps down from the SAF.

The incoming CDF, RADM Beng, 41, joined the SAF in 2000 and was awarded the President’s Scholarship as well as the SAF Overseas Scholarship. Prior to his appointment as CNV in Mar 2020, RADM Beng held other appointments in MINDEF and the SAF, including Commanding Officer of the Formidable-class frigate RSS Intrepid, Commanding Officer of the Frigate Squadron, Director of the Defence Policy Office, Fleet Commander, and Chief of Staff – Naval Staff.

Under RADM Beng’s leadership, the RSN pursued organisational changes and capability development to prepare for the future. These included the operationalisation of the Maritime Security and Response Flotilla to protect Singapore’s territorial waters and respond to expanded maritime security threats; strengthening of the RSN’s Engineering and Logistics system; launch of the second and third Invincible-class submarines; and the operationalisation of a Whole-of-Government sense-making system to improve inter-agency security coordination at sea. He also led the inter-agency Crisis Management Group that deals with maritime security risks such as terrorist threats, and oversaw maritime security operations during major national events such as our National Day celebrations and the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat 2022 in Bintan.

As CNV, RADM Beng also steered the RSN through the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to safeguard Singapore’s sovereignty and security. Under RADM Beng’s leadership, the RSN furthered Singapore’s defence policy space during the pandemic through COVID-19 safe exercises at sea, virtual engagements with defence partners, and safe conduct of the 7th International Maritime Security Conference, the first large-scale maritime conference held since the start of the pandemic.

The incoming CNV, RADM Wat, 39, joined the SAF in 2002 and was awarded the SAF Overseas Scholarship. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science (Mathematics and Philosophy) and a Master of Science (Management Science and Engineering) from Stanford University, USA, and a Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. During the course of his military career, RADM Wat has held, amongst others, the appointments of Commanding Officer of the Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme, Deputy Commander of Maritime Security Task Force/Maritime Security Command, Director of the Defence Policy Office, and Fleet Commander.

Source: MINDEF Singapore

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