41YO RADM Aaron Beng from the Navy to Become the Chief of Defence Force


Our nation’s safety is paramount in a time of increasing threats.

On 22 February 2023, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced that the Defence Force would see a leadership change.

The new face? 41-year-old Rear-Admiral (RADM) Aaron Beng Yao Cheng.

RADM Beng Appointed Chief of Defence Force

On Wednesday, MINDEF released a statement announcing the change in leadership.

RADM Beng will take over Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong Su Kiat’s position as Chief of Defence Force (CDF).

The leadership handover will be effective from 24 March 2023.

RADM Beng is the first Chief of Navy to become the CDF, marking an exciting moment in our history.

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About RADM Beng

RADM Beng joined the SAF in 2000.

Before becoming the Chief of Navy in March 2020, he held other appointments in MINDEF and the SAF, such as Commanding Officer of the Formidable-class frigate RSS Intrepid, Commanding Officer of the Frigate Squadron, Director of the Defence Policy Office, Fleet Commander and Chief of Staff – Naval Staff.

That’s a lot of appointments.

MINDEF noted that RADM Beng led the Navy to pursue organisational changes and capability development to prepare for future challenges.


Besides leading the Crisis Management Group, he was also involved in operationalising a whole-of-Government system to improve inter-agency security coordination at sea.

FYI, the Crisis Management Group deals with security risks. 

The Defence Ministry also acknowledged RADM Beng’s efforts to steer the Navy through the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to safeguard Singapore’s sovereignty and security.

He was also previously awarded not one, but two scholarships—namely, the President’s Scholarship and SAF Overseas Scholarship.

If you know nothing about scholarships, just know RADM Beng’s scholarships are very atas ones.

He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Engineering Sciences (Electrical). 

Furthermore, he attended the United States Naval Command and Staff Course and conducted at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

First Chief of Navy to Become Chief of Defence Force

It’s pretty cool that there’s finally a Chief of Navy to become the CDF.

Under MINDEF’s Facebook post announcing the leadership changes, numerous netizens congratulated RADM Beng for his achievement.

Image: Facebook (@MINDEF)
Image: Facebook (@MINDEF)

Many also thanked the outgoing CDF LG Ong for his service to the country.

Image: Facebook (@MINDEF)

“Very Large Shoes to Fill”

Though many are excited that RADM Beng is the first Chief of Navy to become the CDF, experts say that he has “very large shoes to fill”, TODAY reports.

The security and global affairs director at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Mr Nicholas Fang, noted the significance of RADM Beng’s appointment.

Mr Fang said, “The selection of Chief of Defence Force is meritocratic in nature, so technically, anyone who is capable regardless of their service can step up to serve the position.”

He added that the focus is not on the officer’s service unit. Instead, the focus should be on how the officer steps up and handles defence-related challenges in the future.

After all, in our digitalised age, threats towards Singapore are no longer solely physical. Cybersecurity threats are a big concern as well.

Moreover, terrorism is a consistent threat.


On 21 February, Singapore detained a 15-year-old for planning terror attacks.

In a commentary published on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that the fight against terrorism is “far from over”.

PM Lee said, “Extremist terrorism has metastasised. Digital media has amplified the poison.”

With threats old and new, RADM Beng’s position is crucial to the safety of our Little Red Dot.

“Deep Appreciation” For LG Ong

MINDEF expressed its “deep appreciation” for the outgoing LG Ong.


He will continue to work in the public service after stepping down. However, there is no elaboration on the matter.

LG Ong took over as CDF in 2018.

Notably, he led the SAF in high-key security operations such as the North Korea-US Singapore Summit.

He was a key figure in leading the SAF’s COVID-19 response, forming various task forces to support the Government’s pandemic operations like contact tracing, scaling up the intensity of the national home recovery programme and stabilising the COVID-19 outbreak in migrant worker dormitories.

LG Ong also led the SAF in establishing the Digital and Intelligence Service, which is critical in an era full of cybersecurity threats.

He also led the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Information Facility, which brings together like-minded countries to share intelligence.

With a dominant threat like terrorism, the inter-agency facility aims to provide early warning against terrorism in the region.

MINDEF said, “Beyond our shores, LG Ong has been instrumental in fostering good defence relations and professional collaborations with foreign militaries, raising the SAF’s international standing and positioning it as a valuable defence partner regionally and internationally.”


Hormat LG Ong. 

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Other Leadership Handovers

Now that RADM Beng is going to be the CDF, who is taking over his place as Chief of Navy?

RADM Sean Wat Jianwen will take over RADM Beng as Chief of Navy on 10 March.

He is currently the Fleet Commander of the Republic of Singapore Navy.

According to MINDEF, these leadership shifts are part of the SAF’s leadership renewal efforts. 

RADM Wat holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science (mathematics and philosophy) and a Master of Science (management science and engineering) from Stanford University.

If you thought that’s a lot of educational qualifications, he also has a Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

RADM Wat joined the SAF in 2002.

Since then, he’s held several appointments in the SAF, such as Commanding Officer of the Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme and as director of the Defence Policy Office.

What is the Chief of Defence Force?

The CDF is the head of the SAF who holds the rank of Lieutenant-General or Vice-Admiral.

The position was originally called Chief of the General Staff when it was first created in 1974.

The position only got its current name in 1990.

Since its inception, there have been ten officers who have held the position of CDF.

RADM Beng will be the 11th CDF in Singapore’s history.

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Featured Image: Facebook (@Republic of Singapore Navy)