Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Singapore Armed Forces ranks

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Volunteer ranks of the SAF Volunteer Corps

Similar  Indonesian military ranks, Army ranks and insignia of India, Irish Defence Forces rank insignia

Singapore Armed Forces ranks

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 among the enlisted rank insignia for private, private (first class) and corporal 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). Career soldiers in this other scheme are known professionally as military experts.


Republic of Singapore air force rank structure

Unlike most Commonwealth countries, the armed forces of Singapore no longer use British-style rank insignia nor many British rank titles, although rank of rear admiral in the Navy is retained. Company officers are represented by bars, Field officers by coats-of-arms and flag and general officers are represented by stars, similar to the rank structures of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Israel and South Korea for example.

The SAF rank structure has many similarities as to with the Singapore Civil Defence Force up to the senior officer rank of Colonel.

Officer corps

Potential officer cadets 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 upon graduation. Outstanding Specialists can cross-over to attend Officer Cadet School based on recommendation letters. Outstanding officer cadets are sent to friendly foreign military academies as exchange cadets to complete the majority of the officer cadet course and are commissioned prior. The SAFTI Military Institute is the spiritual home of the officer corps.

Graduating from junior colleges or polytechnics is a mandatory prerequisite for selection to OCS. Career officers with GCE Advanced Level and polytechnic diploma qualifications are encouraged to obtain further tertiary studies in universities; Scholarships and sponsorships are awarded for university education at local or overseas universities.

The role of officers in the SAF are generalists who exercise leadership and command. They are assisted by the specialists who provide technical expertise to train enlistees. The SAF's cream-of-the-crop officers have had operational military experience overseas such as participating in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions.

Military scholarship and sponsorship

As with many military organisations, the SAF aims to build up a leadership of professional career soldiers equipped with vast and in-depth knowledge of various expertise. Different military scholarships and study awards (sponsorships) are awarded to career regulars to broaden their horizons, pushing their learning capabilities.

The top-of-the-line prestigious Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS) is awarded to outstanding scholarly officers with excellent academic results, co-curricular activities and Officer Cadet School performance. Based on a Career Estimated Point (CEP) criteria, these scholars will have accelerated routes of advancement and dual-track tours of duty, compared to the rest of the commissioned officers corps as they are rotated to a broader range of military tactics and the various ministries in Singapore. These overseas scholars are groomed for the highest echelons of command and management in the SAF. After retiring from the SAF, almost all will often be absorbed into the Singapore Civil Service, statutory boards, government agencies and government-link corporations to assume directorships and top management positions.


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). 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. 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.


The specialist corps forms the mid-level management of the Singapore Army's operations as specialists are often referred to as subject matter experts (SMEs). They are specifically trained in a variety of weaponry and/or equipment as well as perform other supervisory duties such as administration and/or handle minor discipline issues (hence the term "specialist"). The specialist, though the mid-tier 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 the enlisted men by providing a dual link of feedback from the higher superiors to the enlisted men. They are welfare supervisors who relay the commands of their higher superiors in lieu of them.

Further Upgrading Training

The Specialist & Warrant officer Advanced School (SWAS) and the SAF Warrant Officer School (SAFWOS), merged as Specialist & Warrant Officer Institute conduct upgrading courses like the platoon sergeants' course, company sergeant Major course, regimental sergeant major course and so on in which regular, operationally ready national servicemen and full-time national servicemen who have been assessed to take up higher mid-tier command. Hence, it is uncommon to find reservist national servicemen company sergeant major in the reservist NS units. It is a way to ensure continual NCO self-renewal leadership in reserve NS units by trained specialists to take up the roles which are usually given to regular servicemen as compared to other countries' military system.

Warrant officers

Regular specialists who have done relevant career advancement tours are offered a 2nd career contract to progress further 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. Selected operationally-ready national servicemen (reservists) who have displayed outstanding reservist performance in their in-camp training are recommended for upgrading courses to be promoted to the ranks of warrant officers in reserve NS units.

Third warrant officers train at SAF 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 NS units. They are usually referred to as "Encik", which means "Mister" in the Malay language, with respect as well as experience and knowledge. Otherwise, they are referred to by the Other Ranks as "Sir".

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

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. 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. 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 experts. ME7 and ME8 will hold pinnacle appointments, commensurate with the attainment of deeper expertise and greater leadership responsibilities.

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:

  • ME1-1: third sergeant, second sergeant
  • ME1-2: first sergeant
  • ME2-1: Staff sergeant
  • ME2-2: master sergeant
  • ME3-1: Third warrant officer
  • ME3-2: Second warrant officer
  • ME3-3: First warrant officer
  • ME4-1: Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant
  • ME4-2, ME4-3: Master warrant officer, Captain
  • ME5-1, ME5-2: senior warrant officer, Major
  • ME6-1, ME6-2, ME6-3: Chief warrant officer, Lieutenant-Colonel and Senior Lieutenant-Colonel
  • ME7: Colonel
  • ME8: Brigadier general, Rear-Admiral
  • 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.

    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.


    The Junior officers wear bars on their epaulettes. Commanding a platoon of specialists and enlistees, they oversee the execution of orders and ensure the welfare of the soldiers. They usually serve as platoon commanders at battalion level although some officers may be given command of companies or appointed as Company Second in Command. Junior officers may also serve as assistant staff officers in various units. Junior Officers graduate from OCS with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant (2LT), and are usually promoted to Lieutenant (LTA) when they are two months or so before they complete their full-time National Service. The reservist NS officers may later be moved to higher appointments after attaining the rank of Captain (CPT) if nominated/ selected to go for upgrading courses at the SAF Advanced Schools.

    Senior Officers wear the National Coat of Arms on their epaulettes. They make command decisions in combat and peacetime, taking charge of units or higher branches. Senior Officers are crucial in the formulation and execution of missions, as well as overseeing the training and direction of their charges.

    Commanding Officers begin their tour duties at the rank of Major (MAJ), and few who can distinguish themselves will attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC). It is an even greater challenge and responsibility for a senior officer to attain the ranks of Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) and Colonel (COL).

    The highest senior officer ranks in the Army are known as the Generals, and their rank insignias consist of a number of stars (one to three). They are responsible for the planning of policies which affect the entire Army, including Command of Divisions. Presently, the three levels of generalship are: Brigadier-General (BG), Major-General (MG) and Lieutenant-General (LG).

    Warrant officers

    Warrant Officers are senior Specialists who have distinguished themselves with their dedication and professionalism. They have similar responsibilities and authority as Commissioned Officers.


    Specialist cadets who have undergone professional military training courses are known as Specialists. They progress from Third Sergeant (3SG) to Second Sergeant (2SG) to First Sergeant (1SG). If they prove themselves to be capable and responsible, they may even attain staff-level ranks, such as Staff Sergeant (SSG) or Master Sergeant (MSG).

    Specialists usually serve as instructors or are put in charge of groups of enlisted men. They serve as the link between the Officers and the men.


    New NS enlistees are given the rank of Recruit until they passed out (completed) their respective Basic Military Training (BMT). Once Recruits complete their BMT, they attain the rank of Private. Enlisted men form the basic foundation of the SAF manpower. Recruits and Privates of all armed services do not have any rank insignia. Enlistees include all basic vocationalists in the SAF.

    The rank of Private (First Class) insignia, a single chevron pointing downward, is awarded to Privates who performed well.

    The rank of lance corporal is usually attained after the privates passed out of their respective vocational courses and within the 1st year of service.

    The rank of Corporal is usually attained within the 2nd year of service.

    The rank of corporal (first class) is awarded to proficient corporals in the top tier of their NS units who hold the rank for >6 months, and is by recommendation.

    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.

    The title of a personnel with the vocation of engineer, based on his MDES rank, would be thus:

    SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)

    Established since October 2014 encouraging Singaporean women, first generation Permanent Residents and new immigrant/naturalised citizens to do their part towards national defence, strengthening support for national service and sharing the responsibility of national servicemen.

    A unique rank structure was created for the SAFVC Volunteers (SVs). As their contribution are different from those of Regulars and NSmen, there is no comparison between the SV rank and others in the SAF. It also differentiates them from SAF Volunteers, former NSmen who continue to service past the statutory age. The SAFVC ranks comprise five tiers, enumerated by winged chevrons. SV (Trainee), SV1, SV2, SV3 and SV4.


    Singapore Armed Forces ranks Wikipedia