Naval Diving Unit (Singapore)

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Republic of Singapore Navy
Naval Ensign of Singapore.svg
Formations
Fleet
Maritime Security Task Force
Naval Diving Unit
Naval Logistics Command
Maritime Training and Doctrine Command
Ships
List of ships of the Republic of Singapore Navy
Bases
Tuas Naval Base
Changi Naval Base
Former Brani Naval Base

The Naval Diving Unit (NDU) is a Special Forces unit of the Republic of Singapore Navy, and is regularly tasked in salvage operations, underwater mine demolition and commando-type warfare.

History[edit]

The Naval Diving Unit (NDU) began with the British government's directive to withdraw her forces east of the Suez in 1971. Prior to that, a unit called the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team was operating from the old Terror Camp premises where NDU now stands. This unit basically supported the strong British naval presence in Singapore.

When the Royal Navy left on 12 December 1971, the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team was replaced by the SAF Diving Center which comprised a small group of local divers tasked to look after the naval assets belonging to the then Maritime Command. In 1975, the SAF Diving Center became officially known as the Naval Diving Unit.

During the initial period, the main task of NDU was to carry out simple underwater tasks like hull checks for the Fleet. As the only public diving capability available in Singapore, divers were and still are called upon to conduct civilian diving recovery tasks.

The NDU of today has its origins in the mid 80's when it was realised that underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and keeping Singapore's waterways open were vital. The RSN Fleet had also grown significantly and more divers were now needed to support ships in harbour and on overseas deployments.

While the NDU of the 90's is almost totally unrecognisable from its humble beginnings, traces of the history of NDU can still be found, such as the British 10-man chamber now with the Naval Medical and Hyperbaric Center.

Recruitment[edit]

In NDU, NSFs and regulars are expected to undergo the same training before they are qualified to become frogmen. Recruitment begins with a vocational assessment, whereby NSFs are selected among the thousands that enlist each year. Prior to being even selected for the vocational assessment, physical fitness results and medical records are being evaluated and only the best are selected. Basic requirements are perfect eyesight, which explains the absence of people wearing spectacles in NDU, and tip top health condition, not suffering from any chronic illnesses that might jeopardise their training, such as asthma. From then on, the selected few will undergo a battery of tests in the camp, amongst them, water confidence as well as psychological evaluation. Those that meet all of these stringent requirements will then be selected to the NDU, which takes precedence over all other units and formations in Singapore.

Organization[edit]

Commander: Colonel Tan Hong Teck

Dive School This is the place where trainees undergo the specialised training required to be a frogman. Here, they will undergo 9 months of grueling training, including Basic Military Training (BMT), Land Combat Training (LCT), followed by Combat Diver Course (CDC). Advancing through the different stages, increasing amount of people drop out from the course as they are unable to keep up with the intense physical and mental demands required of them. Trainees are given lesser amount of sleep as the training goes on and numerous vetoes are set in place, which trainees are required to pass before they qualify to be a naval diver. Vetoes includes timed run, sea swim, IPPT, among others. All these training culminates to the final evolution, Team Building Week (TBW), more commonly known as Hell Week. TBW is an intensive 5-day exercise whereby sleep deprivation and non-stop physical and mental exertion are commonplace. This is to separate the man from the boys, the tough from the weak. Only the most motivated and dedicated trainee, which exhibits outstanding team work and spirit is allowed to pass this final test. By the end of the 9-month training, as many as 50% of the initial batch will not make it through as a naval diver. Following this, they are then sent to either the Underwater Demolition Group (UDG) or Clearance Diving Group (CDG).

Underwater Demolition Group This is where the bulk of the trainees go, and further training takes place here. Here, naval divers are sent overseas for further training and upgrading of skills.

Clearance Diving Group

Special Warfare Group The Special Warfare Group is an elite, all-regular special forces unit created as a Navy counterpart to the Special Operations Force. The best candidates from Special Forces Qualification Course are selected to attend the Special Warfare Course before being inducted into this unit. Members train with various foreign units, and may also attend the United States BUD/S course. The unit insignia shows an anchor, rebreather and trident over a pair of bat wings, with the motto "Will to Do, Spirit to Dare".

Training[edit]

Basic training includes:

  • drown-proofing training
  • pool competency
  • fast roping
  • improvised explosive device disruption
  • underwater mine disposal
  • explosive ordnance disposal
  • special land operations

Drown-proofing has its roots from the Vietnam War when it was found that captured U.S Navy SEALS were thrown into rivers with their hands and legs bound, and thus drown as they were not trained in drown proofing. Drown proofing teaches NDU divers to swim with their hands and legs tied.

Pool competency is a module to test the divers' water confidence, as well as their ability to keep calm under hectic situations. There are 3 parts to pool competency but is mainly being attacked under water. The diver's face mask and regulator will be ripped out and, depending on the stage of the test, tied onto his air cylinder. Shoulder straps will be unraveled and the waist belt will be unbuckled. To pass the test, the diver will have to hold his breath throughout this incident and remedy the situation by getting back his air source and donning the air cylinder in the proper manner.

Operatives of the NDU with the SAR-21 rifles during training exercise with U.S. Navy.

Divers also go through a "Team Building Week", more infamously known as "Hell Week", where divers are pushed to their ultimate limits, going through evolutions such as cold treatment and 3 km night paddling, while receiving only minimal hours of sleep, sometimes only 3 hours collectively over 5 days. After "Hell Week", they will be nearing the end of their 9-month combat diver course.

NDU divers are also regularly sent overseas for training, in particular, with the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets), US Navy SEALs and the British Special Air Service. In 2001, naval officer Captain Wong Foo Chan became the first foreigner to top his class in the Green Berets course, and received a commendation medal for this achievement. He had also completed the Navy SEAL course in 1999.

NDU divers were sent to conduct salvage operations after the crash of SilkAir Flight MI185 on 19 December 1997, which killed all 104 people on board.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]