Sunday, 2 July 2017

SAF beefing up land, air, sea operations to tackle terrorism: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's SAF Day interview 2017

18,000 soldiers to be trained each year at new institute as Singapore refines counter-terror response: Ng Eng Hen
By Kor Kian Beng, Deputy News Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is making a suite of changes to land, air and sea operations to better tackle the scourge of terrorism, which has risen in worrying intensity and proximity to Singapore.

Outlining the steps, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said some 18,000 soldiers, including full-time and operationally ready national servicemen, will be trained yearly at the Island Defence Training Institute, to open at the end of this month.

The training will cover areas such as scenario-based simulation and live firing for homeland security operations; search-and-arrest procedures to be undertaken by SAF personnel; knowledge of legal powers and rights of private defence; and retractable truncheon drills.

Selected NS units may also be deployed for homeland security operations during in-camp training (ICT), such as joint deterrence patrols with the police and coastal surveillance operations.

NS units will also undergo refresher training during ICT so their skills are kept current and they can be readily deployed.

Speaking to local and foreign media earlier this week ahead of SAF Day today, Dr Ng said Singapore is refining its counter-terrorism response by equipping each soldier with counter-terrorism skills, just as how the terrorist threat has gone "from wholesale to retail".

He cited the Al-Qaeda group as an example of wholesale terrorism with a centralised hierarchy and foot soldiers who lacked skills like bomb-making, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as an embodiment of retail terrorism, with its individual fighters possessing skills to make improvised explosives and carry out hijacking or kidnapping.

"Now, just as terrorism has gone from wholesale to retail, we need to have those capabilities for our own self-defence at the retail level," said Dr Ng, noting this year's SAF Day is significant as it also marks the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore and 50th year of national service.

He said the rise of ISIS-linked terrorists fighting in the Philippine city of Marawi is a worrying sign of the threat getting closer to home.

Another cause for concern is the increase of such incidents globally. Terror incidents jumped threefold from about 5,000 in 2011 to nearly 17,000 in 2014. In contrast, the figure in 2000 was around 1,800.

"The assumption is that attacks that occur in Singapore may increase in scale, frequency and impact. It is a sobering change of assumptions, but I think we better change to meet a heightened need rather than be caught with inadequate resources," said Dr Ng, who also spoke of the need to be vigilant against terrorism in his SAF Day message delivered yesterday.

On the maritime front, the Republic of Singapore Navy will be deploying more unmanned assets and tapping more effective data analytics to enhance security.

As for the Republic of Singapore Air Force, it has introduced advanced sensors providing 24-hour low-level radar coverage and developed a Combat Management System that fuses information from multiple sources to present an integrated view of the air situation.

The SAF is also increasing links with the Home Team by validating various plans and developing a common command-and-control information system "so that agencies can talk", said Dr Ng, who touched on other topics, like Singapore's readiness to help in the Marawi conflict.

He added that Singapore and Singaporeans have to deal with terrorism decisively and "prepare for it" as it is an endemic problem that might not go away within a decade.

"It might not go away even within our lifetime. When they attack us, we must respond to it, make sure that we remain cohesive, make sure that we deal with the aftermath."

SAF only as strong as its soldiers: Ng Eng Hen
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) can be only as strong as its individual soldiers - and each national serviceman and regular must give of his and her best to protect Singapore, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday, ahead of SAF Day.

He said a strong SAF is the most effective deterrence against potential aggressors, as he listed terror incidents in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Melbourne, Sydney, Paris, London and Marawi in the Philippines.

"We cannot promise Singaporeans that no attack will occur here - no country is immune. But we can promise Singaporeans this - that the SAF stands ever vigilant to guard against these attacks and when it happens, to limit the damage and harm," said Dr Ng.

He was speaking at a combined rededication ceremony yesterday at Temasek Polytechnic, where 105 operationally ready national servicemen pledged their commitment to the SAF and the nation.

In an interview this week marking SAF Day today, Dr Ng also revealed a suite of changes from land, air and sea by the armed forces to tackle the terror threat. He also gave updates on moves to beef up cyber defence in the SAF.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli also officiated at three separate rededication ceremonies yesterday.

SAF identifying and grooming cyber defenders
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

He was trained as a military policeman, but full-time national serviceman Velusamy Sathiakumar Ragul Balaji's talent with computers has landed him a new role.

Private Ragul, 18, who is six months into his national service, will soon be transferred to a new post as a cyber defender, responsible for guarding military networks against cyber attacks.

He was talent-spotted by the Defence Ministry (Mindef) after his team emerged as one of the winners at a cyber-security camp for junior college and tertiary students organised last month.

Mr Ragul, who picked up programming as a hobby, is thrilled with his new role. He had heard of the cyber-defence role before enlisting. "It is definitely something I have been looking forward to, even before NS."

His change in post underscores the push by Mindef to identify and groom national servicemen to become cyber defenders, as the threat of cyber attacks on Singapore's military networks grows.

Besides plans to build a corp of about 2,600 cyber defenders - regulars and national servicemen - in the next decade, a new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) command will also be formed to coordinate the running of the military's networks and response to cyber attacks.

The SAF C4 Command, which will be led by a commander of brigadier-general level, will be inaugurated in November, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters in an interview earlier this week.

The command comprises two units: A Cyber Defence Group (CDG) that guards against, detects and responds to cyber attacks; and a C4 (Command, Control, Communications and Computers) Operations Group (C4OG), which operates and monitors all of the SAF's networks, including its war-fighting systems.

When fully staffed, the C4 Command will have 2,000 regular soldiers and national servicemen: 700 in the C4OG, and 1,300 in the CDG.

In the interview for SAF Day today, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Singapore has become a target for cyber attacks.

"Singapore has now found itself on someone's list. The attacks are orchestrated. The attacks are targeted. They want to steal specific information. There are minds behind this orchestration," Dr Ng said.

On Feb 1, a cyber breach of Mindef's I-net system was discovered, with hackers stealing the personal information of 854 personnel.

Dr Ng said that "consequential changes" are being made in the light of the threats, and this started with the forming of the ministry's Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO), which he announced in March.

The DCO, which will be staffed with half of the 2,600 cyber defenders, is a top-level command that develops cyber defence policies and strategies for the SAF, defence industry partners and other Mindef- related organisations.

"The next two decades or longer will not see threats diminish but indeed increase, whether from conventional threats, maritime threats, terrorist threats, cyber threats, and the SAF is adapting swiftly to this new threat environment," he said.

300 firms, retailers show support with discounts
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

An annual initiative for retailers and companies to show their support for national service (NS) by offering servicemen discounts and promotions is seeing its largest turnout this year.

More than 300 organisations - including supermarkets, hotels, food and beverage outlets, cinemas and retail shops - are taking part in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day promotions, which coincides with SAF Day today. This year also marks 50 years of NS, which started in 1967.

The SAF Day promotions, which are aimed at recognising the contributions of national servicemen from the SAF and Home Team, started in 2013 with just 21 merchants, and had about 200 companies taking part last year.

All former and current servicemen can benefit from the promotions - such as discounts on restaurant bills or special hotel rates - which are mostly available from yesterday to Aug 10.

Depending on the benefits they wish to redeem, servicemen will either have to don their uniforms or display valid identification, such as their service ID (the 11B) or their Safra/Home Team NS cards.

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), for example, will be offering one- for-one adult tickets to its Adventure Cove Waterpark, S.E.A. Aquarium and Universal Studios Singapore theme park. There are 1,000 one-for-one packages to be redeemed for each attraction during the promotional period till Aug 10.

RWS' vice-president for business development Alan Teo said: "We understand that NS forms a key pillar of the entire defence of Singapore."

During his interview for SAF Day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he was "very thankful" for the way businesses have responded to the SAF Day promotions initiative, which began as a ground-up movement.

National servicemen can visit to check out the deals.

SAF's Special Operations Task Force storms Rochor Centre in anti-terror exercise

By Lydia Lam, The Straits Times, 17 Jul 2017

Rochor Centre was the site of a "terrorist" attack on Monday (July 17) morning, and the action was all captured on video.

The 1min-long video, posted by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on his Facebook page on Monday night, shows a simulated shooting attack by "terrorists" in the main open square of Rochor Centre.

The Special Operation Task Force, Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) first responders in counter-terrorism and other contingency operations, is shown storming the centre to neutralise the threat.

Armed with guns, the officers are shown subduing the terrorists.

Dr Ng said that the operation was "an exercise, but one that the SAF takes seriously, to prepare for real life".

He wrote: "We use every opportunity to train realistically, and the vacated Rochor Centre, before it's torn down, is one precious example."

The vacant Housing Board blocks at Rochor Centre are being used for SAF's military training exercises until July 21, the Ministry of Defence said on Friday (July 14).

Residents and stakeholders in the immediate vicinity were informed of the exercises and advised to stay clear of the area.

Residents and business operators at Rochor Centre were given until the end of last year to move out, after it was slated for demolition to make way for a segment of the North-South Corridor, due to be completed in 2026.

* New SAF Island Defence Training Institute to train NSFs, NSmen in responding to security and terrorist threats
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2017

A new institute was officially launched yesterday to train soldiers in dealing with security and terrorist threats, as the need for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to play a larger role in this area increases.

The Island Defence Training Institute (IDTI) will equip soldiers with skills to respond to threats alongside their Home Team counterparts.

Some of the skills taught include search and arrest techniques, how to deal with unarmed suspects in non-lethal ways and protecting critical structures like those on Jurong Island and at Changi Airport.

The soldiers will also be trained to tackle security threats in urban environments such as in the heartland and shopping malls.

IDTI will train up to 33,000 active and operationally ready national servicemen a year at its peak.

The institute's launch comes at a time of heightened security and terrorist threats globally.

Speaking at the launch at Clementi Camp yesterday, Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung emphasised the pressing yet evolving threat environment.

He said global terrorism incidents have more than tripled from 5,000 cases in 2011 to almost 17,000 in 2014, and South-east Asia has not been spared. There have been eight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-linked incidents in the region since January last year, he added.

IDTI "needs to train and equip all our servicemen with the skills and technology to deal with several counter-terrorist and homeland defence scenarios", said Mr Ong, who is also Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills).

The new institute comprises two centres and two schools.

Its new Homeland Security Training Centre and the Island Defence Training Centre are located in Clementi Camp.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said in June that the Homeland Security Training Centre will train 18,000 soldiers yearly. The centre has trained some 4,000 soldiers since March.

The IDTI's Security and Policing Leadership School and Security and Policing Vocational School are based in Mowbray Camp and, together with the Island Defence Training Centre, will train 15,000 soldiers annually.

Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that while the SAF has been playing a role in domestic security for some time, the setting up of IDTI shows recognition of its widening role in this area.

On how IDTI fits in with SAF's move towards tackling terror threats, Colonel Dinesh Vasu Dash, commander of the 2nd People's Defence Force and the Island Defence Task Force, said: "If we were to deploy our soldiers to the heartland, they need to be trained to do duties similar to what the police are doing."

IDTI's Homeland Security Training Centre has a course that includes video simulation training scenarios, which involve perpetrators in a shopping mall, at a vehicle checkpoint and in coastal areas.

The scenarios are designed for trainees to hone their judgment in applying the correct rules of engagement. The scenarios can be updated based on operational needs.

Full-time national serviceman Muhammad Zayyani, 26, an artilleryman, said the centre taught him skills not learnt in artillery school.

"Before this, we didn't know what to expect if a perpetrator has a detonator. (The training) made me more confident about handling such situations, if they emerge."

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Enhancing Homeland Security for Singapore: Island Defence Training Institute

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