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The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has two rank structures.

One rank is structured similar to other military hierarchies in other countries. One major difference is that the SAF uses a unified rank structure, with identical rank names and insignia throughout the Army, Navy, and Air Force. For example, traditional navy ranks such as ensign and commander have been replaced with army-style ranks. Only two exceptions exist to the unified rank structure. Firstly, among the flag officer ranks, the navy retains the admiral ranks. The second exception is for the rank insignia for private and private first class in the Air Force, Army and Navy.

This structure is subdivided for officers, warrant officers, specialists, and enlistees.

The other structure is for the Military Domain Experts Scheme (MDES), which comprises eight ranks (Military Expert 1 – Military Expert 8).[1] Personnel under this scheme are collectively known as military experts.


Unlike most Commonwealth countries, the armed forces of Singapore no longer use British-style rank insignia nor many British rank titles. Company officers are represented by bars, field officers by coats-of-arms and flag and general officers are represented by stars, similar to the systems of the Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia for example. American influence is obvious in relation to the existence of two rear-admiral ranks.

The SAF rank structure is largely similar to that of the Singapore Civil Defence Force up to the rank of colonel.

Officer corps[]

Potential officers in the SAF are selected at Basic Military Training Centre and Specialist Cadet School. They are sent to Officer Cadet School to train, and are commissioned on graduation. Specialists may attend Officer Cadet School on recommendation as well. Even officers sent to train at friendly service academies complete the majority of the officer cadet course and are commissioned prior. As a result, the SAFTI Military Institute is considered the spiritual home of the officer corps.

Graduating from junior colleges or polytechnics is a prerequisite to be selected for OCS. Career officers with GCE Advanced Level qualifications are expected to obtain further studies in university; many scholarships are given for university education at local or foreign universities.

The role of officers in the SAF mirrors that of most western militaries. Officers are generalists who exercise leadership and command. They are assisted by the specialists who provide technical expertise, train and discipline enlistees, and serve as the institutional memory of the SAF. Several of the SAF's top officers have had operational military experience overseas.[2][3]

Military scholarship[]

As with many military organisations, the SAF aims to build up a network of military personnel that are equipped with knowledge of various fields. Military scholarships and study awards are given to regulars to broaden their horizons and enhance their learning capabilities.

The Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS) is given to outstanding officers with excellent academic results, co-curricular activities and Officer Cadet School performance. These scholars have a different tour of duty from the rest of the officers as they are exposed to a broader range of military tactics and the various ministries in Singapore. SAF overseas scholars are groomed for the highest levels of command and management in the SAF and beyond.[4]


Potential specialists are selected at Basic Military Training Centre and are trained at Specialist Cadet School (SCS). As of 22 December 2008, all specialist trainees are given the rank of specialist cadet (SCT).[5] This rank is worn until they pass out from SCS, after which the trainees are promoted to the rank of third sergeant.

The requirements for selection are similar to that of officers - graduation with either GCE Advanced Level or polytechnic diploma qualifications. The majority of soldiers who are selected to train to be specialists by this route remain national servicemen and usually do not decide to sign-on as regulars. This is most likely due to the better career prospects available outside the military to people with such educational qualifications. The primary source of regular specialists is from institutes of technical education (ITE) and polytechnics, through various schemes which provide study grants.[6][7][8] This scheme replaces the now-defunct SAF Education Centre, whose role was to give boys aged 14–17 who were not academically inclined, a career in the military.[9]


The specialist corps forms the backbone of the Singapore Army's operations as specialists are often referred to as subject matter experts. They are specifically trained in a variety of weaponry and/or equipment as well as perform other duties such as administration and/or handle discipline issues (hence the term "specialist"). The specialist, though the lowest in rank in the command hierarchy, is essential in the running and efficient execution of military exercises or training by being the link between the officers and enlistees by providing a dual link of feedback from the top superiors to the lower enlistees. They are welfare managers as well as authoritative figures that execute the commands of their superiors in lieu of them.

Further training[]

The SCS also regularly conducts advanced courses like the platoon sergeants' course and company sergeant major course, in which regular, operationally ready national servicemen and full time national servicemen who have exhibited and showcased outstanding military performance on/off the field, are selected to train to take up more responsibilities. Hence, it is not surprising to find a full time national serviceman company sergeant major in the Singapore Army. More importantly, it is a way to ensure continual NCO leadership in reserve national service battalions by providing for, capable and well-trained specialists to take up the roles which are often given only to regular servicemen in active battalions.

Warrant officers[]

Regular specialists who have completed relevant career advancement tours will be offered a chance to progress further in their careers as warrant officers. As of 1 April 2010, outstanding specialists can attain the rank of third warrant officer as soon as six years into service.[10] Operationally ready national servicemen who have also exhibited excellent track records as well as excellent military performance can also be considered for conversion to be warrant officers.

Third warrant officers train at Singapore Armed Forces Warrant Officer School (SAFWOS) and attend the joint warrant officer course to be promoted to the rank of second warrant officer.

Warrant officers serve as mentors as well as disciplinarians in many training institutes as well as active battalion units. They are usually referred to as "Encik", which means "Mister" in the Malay language, with reference to their seniority as well as experience and knowledge. Otherwise, they are referred to by juniors as "Sir".

The warrant officers' creed details the roles and responsibilities of the warrant officer as a commander and as a leader of men under his charge.

Military Domain Experts Scheme ranks[]

The Military Domain Experts Scheme consists of eight ranks. The scheme was introduced in April 2010 to develop talented and capable uniformed personnel with deep specialisation in specific military competencies.[11] These ranks do not have names, but are instead indicated as MEX, with X being a digit from 1 to 8. The eight-rank structure is further divided into at least two pay grades. The ranks of ME3, ME4, ME6, ME7 have three pay grades. Pay grades are indicated in the format MEX-Y (for example, ME3-2). Usually, only the main rank (example, ME3) is indicated on any correspondence unless the pay grade is required to be known.[citation needed] Servicemen under this scheme are known as military experts.

The Military Domain Experts Scheme rank structure is an enhancement to existing officers' and warrant officers' career schemes. This is a contiguous rank structure, with continual advancements from ME1 to senior ME ranks for outstanding performers. Being the leadership and deep expertise nucleus of military experts, ME4 and above MEs will be appointed as senior military expertss. ME7 and ME8 will hold pinnacle appointments, commensurate with the attainment of deeper expertise and greater leadership responsibilities.[12]

Personnel who have transferred to become military experts will be converted to the ME ranks based on their previous, more traditional SAF ranks. The below shows the ME ranks those who converted will hold:

The ranks of third warrant officer and senior lieutenant colonel did not exist prior to the implementation of MDES. They were introduced into the SAF rank structure together with the implementation of MDES in April 2010. The rank of chief warrant officer was introduced into the warrant officers rank structure in July 2012.[13]

Rank system[]

The Singapore Armed Forces rank system, with the exception of the MDES structure, uses the same rank name for all three services until the rank of colonel (inclusive). Currently, the official table of ranks stops at three stars.

For the camouflage number 4 uniform, all rank insignia are worn on the chest straps. For other dress (numbers 1 through 3 & 5), the rank insignia are worn on the shoulder boards for officers, warrant officers and military experts, and on the sleeves for specialists and enlistees. For specialised uniforms such as coveralls and flight suits (number 4C), ranks of officers, warrant officers and military experts are sewn on both shoulders, and on the right sleeves for specialists and enlistees. The old camouflage pattern uniform had officers' and warrant officers' ranks on the shoulder epaulettes, and on the sleeves for specialists and enlistees.

To assist in the comparison of ranks in the military forces of different countries, established NATO rank codes are used.


NATO rank code OF-1 OF-2 OF-3 OF-4 OF-5 OF-5 OF-6 OF-7 OF-8
Rank Second lieutenant Lieutenant Captain Major Lieutenant colonel Senior lieutenant colonel Colonel Brigadier general
Rear admiral (1 star)
Major general
Rear admiral (2 star)
Lieutenant general
Vice admiral

Warrant officers[]

Warrant officer ranks of the Singapore Armed Forces
Rank Third Warrant Officer Second Warrant Officer First Warrant Officer Master Warrant Officer Senior Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer
Abbreviation 3WO 2WO 1WO MWO SWO CWO


Specialist ranks of the Singapore Armed Forces
Insignia Army-SGP-OR-5a Army-SGP-OR-5b Army-SGP-OR-5c Army-SGP-OR-6a Army-SGP-OR-6b
Rank Third Sergeant Second Sergeant First Sergeant Staff Sergeant Master Sergeant
Abbreviation 3SG 2SG 1SG SSG MSG


The situation for enlistees is more complicated. Recruits of all services do not wear any rank insignia. Only Army privates who are awarded the private first class rank wear the single chevron, which is awarded to active enlistees or operationally ready national servicemen. Privates, like recruits, would not have any rank insignia.

The rank of corporal first class is awarded to corporals in the top 30% of their cohort who have held the rank for at least six months.

Singapore Armed Forces enlistee ranks
NATO rank code OR-1 OR-2 OR-3 OR-4
Insignia (No Insignia) (No Insignia) Army-SGP-OR-3 Army-SGP-OR-4a Army-SGP-OR-4b
Rank Recruit Private Lance corporal Corporal Corporal first class
Abbreviation REC PTE LCP CPL CFC

Military experts[]

Each rank consists of two parts, the first being a prefix based on the rank's seniority, and the second being the vocation name (e.g. engineer, intelligence specialist). An example would be "assistant engineer". Exceptions are the rank of ME3 and ME4, which has no prefix and is addressed simply by the vocation name.[14][15]

The title of a personnel with the vocation of engineer, based on his MDES rank, would be thus:[14][15][dead link]

Singapore Armed Forces
Military Domain Experts Scheme rank insignia
Rank ME1 ME2 ME3 ME4 ME5 ME6 ME7 ME8
Title Assistant engineer Assistant engineer Engineer Lead engineer Senior engineer Principal engineer Senior principal engineer Chief engineer

See also[]


External links[]

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