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.
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.
Source: Singapore Parliament Reports (Hansard)