Southeast Asian governments have not missed this lesson. If future response capacities are to be enhanced, someone has to take the lead. What Singapore is doing with its JMMS is improving the region’s capability to deal with common security challenges such as natural disasters. It appears to be of no coincidence that the announcement of the JMMS came about half a year following Haiyan, as Ng spoke of the need of replacing the existing Endurance class (STM Endurance-140) landing platform docks, which he remarked to have limited payload including helicopter capacity.
Furthermore, this emphasis on HA/DR missions is in line with the Singapore Armed Forces’ mission statement, which is to enhance “Singapore’s peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy (emphasis added).” Fundamental to this is the greater willingness for the Singapore Armed Forces to participate in a range of non-war operations further afield such as counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, and disaster relief operations in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Without deeper analysis of how a ship like the JMMS is designed, misperceptions about its roles and missions can be all too easy to happen. Bombastic titles make for wide readership on sensationalist tabloids, but this comes at the expense of regional security shaped by interstate perceptions, or misperceptions. The power of media in this regard should not be underestimated.
Koh Swee Lean Collin and Bernard Fook Weng Loo are researchers at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kasey Krall