SAF buying new equipment to counter terror threat

The SAF's Special Operations Task Force in a media preview of a counter-terrorism exercise last October in a cinema hall at Tampines Mall. Apart from acquiring new hardware, the SAF has updated its tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-terro
The SAF's Special Operations Task Force in a media preview of a counter-terrorism exercise last October in a cinema hall at Tampines Mall. Apart from acquiring new hardware, the SAF has updated its tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-terrorism operations, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.ST FILE PHOTO

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is arming itself to better fight the terror threat, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

He told Parliament the SAF is buying new equipment to give its forces "better mobility, more accurate situational assessments and precise capabilities" to neutralise terrorists in urban settings.

It has also updated its tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-terrorism operations, said Dr Ng in response to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who had asked about SAF's anti-terror operations.

Dr Ng also said the SAF was fighting the terror threat in the Middle East and in the region.

Referring to an ongoing siege in Marawi in the southern Philippines, he said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted Singapore's offer of assistance "in principle". The implementation details are being worked out.

On a trip to Manila last month, Dr Ng had offered Philippine troops the use of SAF's urban training villages, as well as a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 transport aircraft to fly humanitarian supplies to the region and a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles to boost the Philippine forces' intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.

The fighting in Marawi was drawing foreign fighters to the region - and if the problem entrenches itself there, Asean countries would bear the brunt of any possible attacks, said Dr Ng.

He added: "The ongoing Marawi crisis in southern Philippines indicates that extremist terrorism is now endemic in this region and it may take many years before that security problem is rooted out."

The SAF has also offered the help of the navy's Information Fusion Centre to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines for their joint maritime patrols in the Sulu Sea.

To fight the terror threat at its source, Dr Ng said, the SAF has since 2015 deployed various units to support the multinational coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Currently, it has a medical team in Iraq. From 2007 to 2013, it also deployed almost 500 personnel to the Middle East to aid the fight against Al-Qaeda.

The threat facing Singapore remains the "highest in recent times", said Dr Ng, pointing out that the number of ISIS-linked attacks globally has increased threefold since 2013.

Various drills and exercises are being carried out in the air and maritime domains, and on land with the Home Team, to ensure that the SAF and Home Team can cohesively respond to an attack on home soil, said Dr Ng, adding: "We have instituted a regular exercise framework to test and validate our joint operations."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'SAF buying new equipment to counter terror threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe