Singapore has a small airspace and is one of the busiest air traffic hubs in the world. The risk of terrorists using the air as a means to create catastrophic damage, as witnessed in the 9/11 attacks, cannot be ruled out. Over the years, the potential air threats that could threaten Singapore have also grown. This includes threats like munitions which take only seconds before they hit the island.

To better defend Singapore against potential air threats, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) set up the Air Defence Task Force (ADTF) to coordinate responses across the Whole-of-Government, and enhanced the Island Air Defence (IAD) system so that it is able to see more, be more responsive, and be more capable in dealing with a wider spectrum of threats.

Air Defence Task Force

The ADTF was set up in 2010 as part of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)'s high readiness core to monitor the skies over Singapore as well as respond swiftly and decisively against potential air threats day and night. It leverages cross-domain and cross-function capabilities, such as the SAF's suite of sensors, flying platforms, and Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) systems within the robust 24/7 networked IAD system. The ADTF works closely with other SAF task forces like the Island Defence Task Force and the Maritime Security Task Force, as well as national agencies such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the Ministry of Transport, the National Security Coordination Centre, and the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

The ADTF conducts regular inter-agency exercises to hone operators' skills, enhance mutual understanding and maintain good coordination between partners. In November 2016, the ADTF led Exercise Vigilant Shield, an air defence exercise which also involved national agencies such as CAAS and the SPF, to exercise a coordinated response to a simulated hijacked aircraft that was headed towards Singapore. The exercise successfully demonstrated the robustness of the enhanced IAD system and the tight inter-agency linkages.

Enhanced Island Air Defence System

The RSAF's enhanced IAD system is a multi-layered, networked and island-wide air defence system which brings together sensors, weapons systems, command and control elements, and decision-making tools. The enhanced IAD is able to see more, be more responsive and is more capable in dealing with a wider spectrum of threats.

a. See more. To identify potential aerial threats early for timely response, the RSAF has introduced advanced sensors such as the aerostat system (a tethered balloon system with 24/7 low-level radar coverage), the Multi-Mission Radar, and the System for Hybrid Interceptor Knowledge of Recognised Air (SHIKRA) radar into the IAD system. Together with the SAF's suite of sensors, they are able detect a wider spectrum of targets and provide a more comprehensive air situation picture.

b. More responsive. For better responsiveness and to ensure the effectiveness of the RSAF's air defence operations, the RSAF and the Defence Science & Technology Agency have developed a Combat Management System (CMS), which fuses information from multiple sources to present an integrated and comprehensive air situation picture. The CMS also features a Decision Support System, which provides real-time evaluation of the air situation and assists the ADTF to make informed decisions swiftly.

c. More capable. The RSAF is also gradually replacing older systems with more advanced and capable systems that can deal with a wider spectrum of threats. The Surface-to-Air PYthon-5 and DERby (SPYDER) GBAD system was acquired to replace the 30-year old RAPIER air defence system in 2011. The SPYDER is capable of engaging a wider spectrum of aerial threats ranging from fighter aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to precision-guided munitions. The RSAF will also be replacing the ageing I-HAWK systems with the ASTER-30 Missile System, which will be able to intercept air threats up to 70km away.