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Interview: Mervyn Tan, Chief Executive, Defence Science and Technology Agency

Chief Executive of DSTA, Mervyn Tan. (DSTA)

With a total land area of 730 km 2 , Singapore is the smallest country in South East Asia. However, its military might betray its size as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is widely recognised today as the region's most modern and well-equipped service.

Playing no small part in this is the country's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), which is responsible in ensuring that the SAF maintains a technological edge over its potential adversaries. However, have recent conflicts suggested that this edge may be eroding in the face of commercially available technology?

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict has demonstrated that future wars will be waged very differently. In Ukraine, low-cost solutions like commercial drones were repurposed and used to drop grenades onto targets,” Mervyn Tan, chief executive of DSTA, said in response to questions from Janes . Tan was a major general serving as the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) chief between 2016 and 2019. He was appointed as deputy secretary (technology) and future systems and technology architect of the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) between 2019 and 2021, before taking the helm at DSTA in 2021.

“Hence, besides acquiring sophisticated military systems such as aircraft and tanks, it is also important to be able to creatively modify readily available commercial technologies such as drones for operations,” Tan said. He posits that out-of-the-box thinking is a key factor required in adapting such technologies in the future.

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