Mobile unit trained to fight terror with speed and skill

Elite officers on special motorbikes equipped with extra gear act as 'second wave' to support first responders

In an emergency, these elite police officers will not hesitate to ride up staircases on their motorcycles or speed on slippery surfaces like gravel or mud to cut travel time.

The Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT), from the Special Operations Command (SOC), form a mobile anti-terror unit which turned operational in July last year. RDT acts as a "second wave" to support land division first responders during a riot or terror incident.

Besides receiving training in counter-terrorism tactics, RDT also regularly holds drills in riding techniques.

Last month, The Straits Times joined several officers on patrol, who looked menacing in their black tactical attire, and participated in an obstacle training drill at the Home Team Tactical Centre (HTTC) in Mandai Quarry Road.

The unit shot to prominence when photographs of RDT officers at an Orchard Road traffic junction were circulated in WhatsApp chat groups in the middle of last year.

Until then, little was known of the unit except for a speech in April last year during the police's workplan seminar, when Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that more specialist police officers would be trained to counter terror attacks.

"They have motorbikes and they are expected to be in place faster," said Mr Shanmugam during the seminar.

 

"They are trained in tactical manoeuvres to negotiate heavy traffic to reach any incident site. That will add to the police's capability to respond swiftly."

The 15kg of gear carried by each officer includes an FN assault rifle, a Heckler & Koch USP 9mm calibre pistol, a bullet-proof vest, extra ammunition, a communications set, a ballistic helmet and a motorcycle helmet.

Two officers ride on an 800cc dual-purpose motorcycle that can handle rough terrain.

The black motorbike weighs around 210kg and is equipped with blinking lights, sirens, crash bars and a special latch to carry two circular riot shields.

The added weight alters a motorbike's handling traits, which is why RDT officers have to maintain a higher level of riding proficiency - on and off roads.

Each officer goes through basic and intermediate riding courses before being allowed on patrols.

Their timed riding assessments include executing high-speed collision avoidance drills, turning in tight spaces and negotiating obstacles found in urban landscapes, such as stairs and kerbs.


The Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT) from the Special Operations Command (SOC) acts as the “second wave” to support land division first-responders during a riot or terror incident. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

During a mock activation at SOC's Queensway base, RDT officers took under four minutes to be fully geared and armed.

After a team leader's briefing, the officers rode off to confront a "terror incident".

But being fast is just one of RDT's many priorities.

Officers also have to be able to shoot accurately from a moving motorcycle and while on a bike's backseat.

RDT officers are also trained to storm a hijacked bus by sneaking up on their motorcycles.

At a special "live" firing range within HTTC, The Straits Times witnessed the officers performing dismount-and-shoot drills.


The Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT) from the Special Operations Command (SOC) acts as the “second wave” to support land division first-responders during a riot or terror incident. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

It looked effortless, with one officer jumping off the rear of a moving motorbike and, seconds later, steadying his aim to fire at a target after a short run.

One exercise, which required riding a motorcycle up a flight of stairs, appeared easy when viewed from the sidelines.

 

As this reporter negotiated the first of 10 sharp-edged steps, it took some effort to maintain a constant throttle hand, let alone maintain balance.

Now, imagine doing the drills with an extra load and a pillion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Mobile unit trained to fight terror with speed and skill'. Print Edition | Subscribe