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Special Operations Force
Active 1984 (existence acknowledged only in 1997) - Present
Country Singapore
Branch Army
Type Special Operations Force
Role

Primary tasks:

  • Direct action
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Hostage rescue
  • Special reconnaissance
Size Unknown
Part of Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation
Motto(s) We Dare
Engagements Operation Thunderbolt
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Colonel Lam Shiu Tong[1]

The Special Operations Force (SOF) is a special forces unit in the Commando Formation of the Singapore Army and a component of the joint Special Operations Task Force.[2] It specialises in operations such as direct action, counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and special reconnaissance, and is one of the few Singapore Armed Forces units trained in military freefall. It trains with United States special operational force such as the Special Forces, Delta Force, SEALs and DEVGRU.[citation needed]

History[edit | edit source]

SOF exhibition booth displaying their equipment during the National Day Parade celebrations of 2005 at Marina South

Formation[edit | edit source]

Question book-new.svg

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|date= }} On 27 September 1972, a flight engineer aboard Olympic Airways Flight 472 accidentally activated a hijack alarm. The Boeing 707 had taken off from Sydney, Australia bound for Paya Lebar Airport in Singapore with 31 passengers and 11 crew members at 10:30 am, Singapore time. Local authorities were not informed of the situation until four hours later. Following a flurry of conflicting reports, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority warned Paya Lebar Airport "to be ready for a possible hijacking." Flight 472 landed at Paya Lebar at 6:25 pm and was immediately surrounded by the police before the authorities could confirm that it was a false alarm. Nonetheless, the incident highlighted the lack of forces trained and equipped to deal with a hijack or hostage situation. This led to the creation of the SOF in 1985 as a dedicated unit to tackle such possible future contingencies.

Operations[edit | edit source]

Operation Thunderbolt[edit | edit source]

Known operations include the 1991 rescue of Singapore Airlines Flight 117 at Singapore Changi Airport.

The SIA Airbus A310 was hijacked by Pakistani militants on 26 March 1991, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.[3] Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) commandos stormed the Airbus at 6:50 am on 27 March with the operation over in 30 seconds and 123 passengers and crew were freed with no injuries to hostages or SOF commandos.[4] All four hijackers were killed by gunfire.[4]

This was the first time the SOF was revealed to the public. The operation was unique on two accounts: first, it marked the first time Singapore resolved an aircraft hijacking with the use of deadly force. Second, it was the first time that an SAF unit had been sent on operations even before its existence had been officially acknowledged. The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF did not take the wraps off the SOF even after the black-clad commandos were photographed storming the SIA plane. They would consistently refer to them as commandos. MINDEF only acknowledged the SOF's existence on 20 February 1997. This was 13 years after they were formed and six years after they first went into action.

Current[edit | edit source]

Brig-Gen. Lam Shiu Tong, a SOF officer was posted at the SOTF as one of its first commanding officers in 2009 before relinquishing his role to become Commander of the 2nd People's Defence Force (2PDF) and being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.[1][5]

Role[edit | edit source]

The Special Operations Force is made up of an unspecified number. It is an elite Special Force which deals with situations such as hostage-taking, counter-terrorism and its war-time role of reconnaissance and strategic special operations. Troopers are trained in jungle-warfare, reconnaissance and counterterrorism, and are deployable by land, airborne assault and amphibious assault, specializing in free-falling, diving and long-range land insertion. They are each cross-trained to operate all types of weapons and equipment, though each trooper is assigned a specialist appointment in his team.

Selection and training[edit | edit source]

It takes approximately four years to complete SOF training, including training in overseas deployments and free-falls, to qualify as an SOF trooper. Recruitment is open to all enlisted ranks and officers in the Singapore Armed Forces, subject to passing the Joint Special Forces Qualification Training and selection. Upon passing selection and a one-year basic training, personnel receive the red beret and become a Special Operations Force trooper or officer, in addition to being part of the Commando formation.

Equipment and weapons[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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