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Stuid Operations Force
Active 1984 (existence acknowledged only in 1997) - Present
Country Singapore
Branch Army
Type Special Forces
Role Counter-Terrorism, Intelligence Gathering Operations, Land, Air and Sea deployable Special Operations.
Size Classified
Part of Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation
Nickname Rumoured by some personnel within the army to have the codename Land Eagles
Motto We Dare
Engagements Operation Thunderbolt

The Special Operations Force (SOF) is part of the Singapore Army's Commandos arm. It is highly trained, and trains regularly with the United States Delta Force, U.S. Army Rangers, and Navy SEALs. They also practice free-falling in all terrains and weather conditions.

Contents

Role

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. As with other such organisations, the identities of its personnel are closely guarded. The most prominent SOF personnel (due to high profile appointments after active service) is Colonel (Ret) Lo Yong Po, who often bears United States Navy Seal badges and service medals.

Non-active former SOF personnel can be spotted sometimes with a "SPECIAL FORCES" tab on the right sleeve of a combat uniform, or a smaller semicircular badge on ceremonial uniforms, though most prefer to be discreet and choose not to wear the tabs.

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.

History

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

On September 27, 1972, a flight engineer aboard a Boeing 707 operated by Greek airline Olympic Airways accidentally flipped a 'hijack alarm'. The plane, Flight 472, 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 Department of Civil Aviation 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 police, before the authorities could confirm that it was a false alarm. Nonetheless, the incident highlighted the lack of hostage-rescue commandos at that time to deal with hijack and hostage situation.

Incident in 2005

In June 2005, a regular with the SOF, Second Sergeant Ong Jia Hui, 24, drowned during training. State Coroner Tan Boon Heng criticised four instructors, Master Sergeant Tan Kang Choon, Master Sergeant Julian Tan, Staff Sergeant Alex Chan and First Warrant Officer Ho Yin Choy, for failing to notice that Ong had gone under water, contributing to his death. The incident also raised public awareness of the unit's existence and the counter-terrorism training which was being conducted. The Minister of Defence Teo Chee Hean said it was the first such incident in the SOF. As of 2006, the SAF was investigating the incident.[1]

Equipment and Weapons

The SOF uses weapons that include the SAR-21 Assault Rifle, MP5 submachine gun, M4 carbine, FN P-90 submachine gun, various shotguns, Vektor and SIG-Sauer pistols, several kinds of sniper rifles and a wide variety of classified weapons.

The SOF also employs many typical equipment associated with counterterrorism to clear rooms and breach doors/locks, though much of it is classified.

Selection and Training

It takes approximately four years to complete SOF training, including training in overseas deployments and freefalls, to qualify as an SOF trooper.

Operations

Operation Thunderbolt

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 March 26, 1991, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) commandos stormed the Airbus at 6:50 am on March 27 with the operation over in 30 seconds and 123 passengers and crew were freed with no injuries to hostages or SOF commandos[2]. All four hijackers were killed by gunfire.[2]

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 February 20, 1997. This was 13 years after they were formed and six years after they first went into action.

References

See also


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