Meet Singapore’s highest-ranking Sikh officer

In 2011, Ravinder Singh became the Chief of the Singapore Army, holding the rank of Major General. He was the first non-Chinese in nearly 30 years of the SAF history and the first Sikh to hold this leadership position.

Chief of Army MG Ravinder Singh speaking to the recruits in February 2014 – Photo: The Singapore Army Facebook page

Major General [MG] (Retired) Ravinder Singh took his mother’s sound advice and eventually went on to become the highest-ranking Sikh officer in the history of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Ravinder’s entry into the SAF was the exception rather than the norm. While many young Singaporean males look towards serving their SAF obligations when they are enlisted, Ravinder decided to apply for a scholarship from the SAF even before he enlisted and he eventually decided to sign on permanently in the SAF. This was not his first experience with a uniformed group as he was a member of the National Cadet Corps while in school. He enjoyed the experience of wearing the green uniform.

In the SAF, Ravinder’s stellar display provided the opportunity for him to study abroad through the SAF Overseas Training Award. He received his Bachelor and Master of Arts in Engineering from Oxford in the United Kingdom. He went on another post-graduate scholarship later on in his career and graduated with a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.1

Ravinder’s career in the SAF has seen him stationed overseas. This included being deployed as a United Nations military observer in Kuwait in 1991 during the Gulf War. The experience allowed him to appreciate the value of his service to his nation and the notion of always being prepared and ready when trouble comes about.2

In a testimony given to the Public Service Commission, Ravinder said, “When we flew into Kuwait City, it had just been liberated from Iraq. I vividly remember landing at the airport, which had been destroyed by the war. The city was destroyed, homes were pillaged and many lives lost. Even though they wanted to protect their families and friends, young Kuwaiti men could do nothing because they were not trained, not equipped and not organised. That was a poignant reminder for me. If I don’t do my part for Singapore now, there would be no second chance. I realised then that serving in the Army was not just a job but it was a sacred duty, to protect our country and our way of life.”3

The experience formed one of Ravinder’s core beliefs on the military that, much more than being an offensive force, it was about protecting absolutely and capably a way of life Singapore and Singaporeans have built. He said: “The most important lesson for all of us that we can learn from Kuwait is that whatever we can’t or are not prepared to defend is not ours even if we have all the financial resources. It takes will and sacrifice to defend ourselves, our families and our country. Nobody will do it for us.”4

Major-General (MG) Ravinder Singh Harchand Singh in an official Mindef issued photo as he was preparing to leave as Chief of Army in 2014


In 2011, Ravinder became the Chief of the Singapore Army, holding the rank of Major General. He was the first non-Chinese in nearly 30 years of the SAF history and the first Sikh to hold this leadership position. His duties allowed him to further improve the SAF in its efforts to confront modern challenges. At the same time, he built relationships with regional countries, making trips to India, amongst other countries, to cement ties and develop peaceful partnerships.5

Ravinder’s experience in the SAF imbued in him a lifelong yearning for challenges, as only through challenges is one able to solve problems. As a result, he was instrumental in implementing new technologies and developments to constantly upgrade the SAF’s capabilities. He played a key role in the implementation of the Integrated Knowledge-based Command and Control capabilities for the SAF. This initiative allows for the seamless integration across the board for the SAF despite the complexities of different systems.6

At the same time, Ravinder oversaw the development and implementation of third generation army capabilities and, in continuance with the SAF’s commitment to peacekeeping, orchestrated the peace support operations in Afghanistan, which included the deployment of Imagery Analyst Teams, Medical Teams as well as Military Institutional Trainers.7 His experience in Kuwait aided him in this task as it allowed for the growth of experience, operational readiness and being constantly vigilant to all threats.

The concept of duty to a cause beyond one’s own personal desires has had significant influence on Ravinder’s beliefs and leadership in the SAF. His determination and desire to serve his country are best summed up in a testimony by him on what he does and why he does it, “Being in the SAF and the public service is really about serving the nation, and putting country and community before self. Being in the SAF requires you to be committed and prepared to sacrifice for an ideal greater than yourself. This ideal is to protect and defend our nation.”8

Ravinder also strongly believes that the defence of the country should be every Singaporean’s responsibility. His stint in Kuwait taught him that ordinary Singaporeans need to understand the importance of national defence and nation-building so that they too are able to defend the country when the need arises. He implemented several initiatives to expose ordinary Singaporeans to the military. These included having the Army Open House at the F1 Pit Building and bringing the SAF to the heartlands by holding exhibitions and events in various parts of Singapore. Among others, the military was able to share its experiences and operations in Afghanistan at these platforms.9

“I have had the honour to serve alongside MG (Retired) Ravinder Singh as a friend and colleague for many years. MG (Retired) Singh, who served the SAF with distinction for 27 years, and who led the Army as its Chief for three years, maintained the Army in a high state of operational readiness. He orchestrated the Army’s peace support operations in Afghanistan, which included the deployment of Imagery Analyst Teams, Medical Teams as well as Military Institutional Trainers, which contributed to the reconstruction e ort in Afghanistan. He also oversaw the operationalisation of signicant Army capabilities such as the Motorised Infantry Battalion and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which brought the Army closer to its 3rd Generation transformation goals. He strongly supported e orts to strengthen National Service and enhance recognition for National Servicemen. A rm believer in public engagement, MG (Ret) Singh implemented numerous initiatives to strengthen the public’s commitment to and appreciation of defence.
It is because of strong leaders like MG (Ret) Singh who have served with a strong sense of duty, honour and country that the SAF continues to be operationally ready at all times so that Singapore can remain stable and secure.”
Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman,
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Singapore


Ravinder’s years and knowledge in technology and infrastructure in the SAF enabled him to take on the role of President of ST Kinetics, following his military stint. The organisation is, amongst other businesses, in the development and production of military hardware and technology for the SAF. He mentioned: “Technology is a significant combat multiplier. For a small nation like Singapore, this is very important, as we will always be limited by the people that we have. The SAF has been proactive in introducing and exploiting technology to strengthen our defence.”10

ST Kinetics currently has an international profile and customer base although its main client remains the SAF, for which it is heavily involved with the Third Generation forces and upgrading of its present arsenal.11

Ravinder Singh – Photo: ST Engineering website


Looking at the youth of today, Ravinder commented: “With more opportunities and more options, there is always the challenge of too much choice for young people, and this can be confusing and distracting. The challenge is to find a clear consistent direction that resonates with your interest, talents and skills, and pursue it vigorously. It is also important to be well anchored in values. Values define character and character will always shine through in the long run.”12

Ravinder’s values have certainly defined his character well, thereby allowing him to shine throughout his life. Ravinder’s recipe for success in life is simple: “Always do the right thing and do it as well as you can.”13 He took his mother’s advice years ago and did the right thing by joining the military service. He served the nation to the best of his abilities for nearly three decades and eventually succeeded in embedding his name in the SAF’s record books.


President Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited

Mr Ravinder Singh was appointed President, Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (ST Electronics) on 1 January 2017, to lead the electronics arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, a company listed on the Singapore Exchange. In his new role, Mr Singh will drive the company’s growth in the core segments of Intelligent Transportation, Satellite Communications, and Information Communications Technologies.

He joined ST Engineering in August 2014 as Deputy President, ST Electronics, Corporate & Market Development, and was responsible for Local Business and corporate divisions which included Human Resource, Information Technology, as well as Corporate Marketing.

In March 2015, Mr Singh was appointed President, Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd, overseeing the company along two pillars of growth, namely the defence and commercial businesses, a role which he now holds concurrently. Under his leadership, the Land Systems sector saw the development of innovative solutions for its customers in the defence and specialty vehicles segments, and provided a diversified revenue stream despite challenging market environments.

Mr Singh started his career with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in December 1982, and was awarded the SAF Overseas Training Award (Academic) in 1983. In his last appointment in the SAF, he served as Chief of Army, Singapore Armed Forces. Prior to this, he was Deputy Secretary (Technology) in the Ministry of Defence. His previous appointments in the SAF include Commander, 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade; Assistant Chief of General Staff (Plans); Head Joint Communications and Information Systems Department; Head Joint Plans and Transformation Department; Commander 6th Division and Chief of Staff – Joint Staff.

During his career in the Singapore Armed Forces, Mr Singh was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Military), Gold and Silver.

Mr Singh holds a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) and a Master of Arts in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford in 1986 and 1992 respectively. He was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Postgraduate Scholarship in 1995. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996 with a Master of Science in management.

Mr Singh is married with two children.



1 Change in Chief of Army, MINDEF, February 20, 2014. See <http://

2 Service with Distinction, Public Service Commission Scholarships. See

3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Photos: Meet Singapore’s Sikh Army Chief, First in 30 Yrs, Rediff, March

19, 2013.
6 Satish Vrma, Brigadier-General Ravinder Singh,, March

5, 2011.
7 Change in Chief of Army, op.cit.

8 Service with Distinction, op.cit.

Change in Chief of Army, op.cit.
10 Robert Karniol, Industry Briefing – Singapore: Defence Ecosystem,

Jane’s Defence Weekly, February 15, 2006. 11 Ibid.

12 Interview with Major General (Retired) Ravinder Singh, October 19, 2015.

13 Ibid.


final-sg50-book[This article is courtesy of SINGAPORE AT 50: 50 SIKHS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS, a book published in 2015 by the Young Sikh Association, Singapore (YSA) in conjunction with Singapore’s 50th birthday]


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