Singaporean Special Operations

Naval Diving Unit (NDU)

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. 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

NDU's unit insignia.
NDU’s unit insignia.

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 task of NDU was mainly to carry out simple underwater tasks like hull checks for the Fleet. Being 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 realized that underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and were keeping our waterways open were vital. The RSN Fleet had also grown significantly and more divers are now needed to support ships in harbour and on over seas deployments.

While the NDU of the 90’s is almost totally unrecognizable from that of it’s 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.


NDU trainees in drownproofing training.
NDU trainees in drownproofing training.

Basic NDU training includes:

  •     Drown-proofing training
  •     Pool competency
  •     Fast roping
  •     Improvised explosive device disruption
  •     Underwater mine disposal
  •     Explosive ordnance disposal

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.


NDU operators

I will swim faster, run further and fight harder from the sea, air and land.
I will fight with all my might and bravely overcome the enemies in defence of my land.
I will carry out my duty with HONOUR and INTEGRITY.
I will care for my team mates and I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.
Loyalty, Courage, Integrity and TEAM SPIRIT distinguish me.
I am a Naval Diver, Frogman from the Sea.

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