Detecting aircraft that stray from flight path

I wanted to ascertain if suspicious aircraft can be effectively detected by our military radar and intercepted before they can harm our homeland. With just a tiny airspace surrounding our territory, there is little time to lose in completing the OODA loop (observe-orient-decide-act) to make the right decision in dealing with suspicious aircraft.

The startling revelation that Malaysian military radar tracked the missing MH370 flying across Peninsular Malaysia but did not sound an alarm, prompted me to ask this question of MINDEF. I wanted to ascertain if suspicious aircraft can be effectively detected by our military radar and intercepted before they can harm our homeland. With just a tiny airspace surrounding our territory, there is little time to lose in completing the OODA loop (observe-orient-decide-act) to make the right decision in dealing with suspicious aircraft. What is interesting is that these air defences were put to the test once before, although it is not clear what type of aircraft had wrongly entered our airspace.

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Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Defence whether the RSAF has measures in place to identify and be alerted to aircraft flying near Singapore which veer off their flight path so that they can be intercepted in time before they reach Singapore.

Dr Ng Eng Hen: The RSAF has a robust air defence system to monitor our skies and protect the sovereignty of Singapore’s airspace. Working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the RSAF detects and identifies aircraft before they enter our airspace through its suite of radars.

If an aircraft veers off its flight path, a series of preventive measures will be triggered. First, air traffic controllers will communicate with the aircraft to verify its reason for veering off its flight path. If there are doubts regarding the intent of the aircraft or the aircraft does not adhere to air traffic control directions, RSAF fighter aircraft will be activated to intercept the aircraft. Ground-based air defence systems will also be activated.

On past occasions, the RSAF had responded swiftly to suspicious aircraft approaching our airspace. For instance, in 2008 when an unknown aircraft was detected heading towards Singapore, the RSAF activated our F-16 fighters to intercept and identify the aircraft, and the fighters escorted it till it landed.

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Source: Singapore Parliament Reports (Hansard)

Use of NSmen resources (COS/MINDEF)

For most NSmen, annual in-camp training (ICT) involves long hours away from work and family. There is often a lot of waiting time in between the action, hence the adage, “hurry up and wait!”

Speech in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Defence on 5 March 2014.

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For most NSmen, annual in-camp training (ICT) involves long hours away from work and family. There is often a lot of waiting time in between the action, hence the adage, “hurry up and wait!”

Commanders, however, are much busier throughout the ICT because they are often engaged in planning while the men wait. Yet for the sake of equity, units usually issue call-ups to all involved NSmen for the full duration of the exercise. This incurs a huge cost in terms of the NSmen’s time and Make-up Pay – which is based on the NSmen’s civilian salary.

To better utilise NSmen resources, could non-commanders be recalled for a shorter ICT duration or fewer ICTs? To address the inequality, key appointment holders and commanders could be rewarded with extra pay or benefits to compensate them for the additional sacrifices they make for our nation.

Prudence in defence spending (COS/MINDEF)

In deciding on its expenditure and choosing cutting edge defence technology, does MINDEF consider that if we leap too far ahead, there is a risk of spurring an arms race, as countries in our region may feel under pressure to keep up with us? This could lead to even greater spending in the future, which may be unsustainable.

Speech in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Defence on 5 March 2014.

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Each year, MINDEF takes up the largest share of the budget among all ministries. This year, the defence budget is $12.6 billion dollars — more than a fifth of total expenditure.

Singapore has the highest defence spending in South East Asia by far. According to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI), we spend 42% more than the next highest spender in the region, and 80% more than the third highest spender.

I fully appreciate the need for us to maintain a strong and credible defence force, and to remain ahead of potential adversaries.

However, in deciding on its expenditure and choosing cutting edge defence technology, does MINDEF consider that if we leap too far ahead, there is a risk of spurring an arms race, as countries in our region may feel under pressure to keep up with us? This could lead to even greater spending in the future, which may be unsustainable.

MINDEF’s culture of secrecy

While obviously I do not expect MINDEF to be open and transparent about its military strategy, doctrine and operational plans, I don’t see why they cannot be upfront about training accidents or incidents where soldiers are seriously injured. It’s bad enough that they took two months to report the first incident, but why couldn’t they report the second incident without being asked?

A letter to the Straits Times today as well as a post by Mr Wang reflect the indignation which I feel too, regarding the Ministry of Defence’s culture of secrecy revealed in the reports about the shootings of two servicemen during a military exercise in Thailand.

On 25 May, the Straits Times reported that commando 1SG Woo Teng Hai suffered head injuries after being shot with a shotgun by a Thai villager. The incident took place on 13 March–more than two months ago. A day later, the paper reported that in fact another serviceman had been shot, this time a full-time national serviceman, PTE J. Pritheery Raj. The news of this second incident would not have occurred if not for a relative of PTE Raj calling the paper after reading the first report. The paper noted that MINDEF “admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident”.
Mindef’s failure to admit that not one, but two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers were shot in Thailand, until a relative of the second injured soldier approached The Straits Times, has demonstrated the ministry’s basic reluctance to tell the public the truth about military casualties.
The second case also was a matter of genuine public interest, especially since a full-time national serviceman was involved.
As citizen soldiers and taxpayers, we have a right to expect that Mindef will account for all military casualties – whether in training or actual operations -where there are no national security implications.

On 25 May, the Straits Times reported that commando 1SG Woo Teng Hai suffered head injuries and lost sight in one eye after being shot with a shotgun by a Thai villager. The incident took place on 13 March–more than two months ago. A day later, the paper reported that in fact another serviceman had also been shot, this time a full-time national serviceman, PTE J. Pritheery Raj. The news of this second incident would not have surfaced if not for a relative of PTE Raj calling the paper after reading the first report. The paper noted that MINDEF “admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident”. Continue reading “MINDEF’s culture of secrecy”

Suggestions to MINDEF regarding Record V recommedations

The Fifth Committee to Recognise the Contribution of Operationally Ready National Servicemen, or Record V, has made 18 recommendations to MINDEF (Ministry of Defence). As an NSman myself, here are my reactions to them and further suggestions to MINDEF.

The Fifth Committee to Recognise the Contribution of Operationally Ready National Servicemen, or Record V, has made 18 recommendations to MINDEF (Ministry of Defence). As an NSman myself, here are my reactions to them and further suggestions to MINDEF.

Continue reading “Suggestions to MINDEF regarding Record V recommedations”