Defence tech firms must be agile: DSTA chief

Defence Science and Technology Agency chief executive Tan Peng Yam also said that DSTA needs to be able to embrace commercial technology. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Defence Science and Technology Agency chief executive Tan Peng Yam also said that DSTA needs to be able to embrace commercial technology. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

This is to keep up with new opportunities, challenges that will arise with growth of tech

Organisations such as the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) need to be agile and adaptable to keep up with the new challenges as well as opportunities that will arise with the rapid growth of technology, said its chief executive Tan Peng Yam.

He noted that technological development is taking place across all industries at a great speed, and there is increasingly a blurring of lines between the commercial and military uses of equipment and platforms.

"The key challenge for both defence as well as non-defence organisations, is how fast we can harness all this advanced technology, innovate and translate them into robust capabilities," said Mr Tan.

"We recognise the importance of incorporating advanced technology for Mindef (Ministry of Defence) and the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces). To do this well, we need DSTA to be adaptive and agile, and able to embrace commercial technology," he added.

Mr Tan was speaking on the third and final day of the Singapore Defence Technology Summit, hosted by the DSTA at the Shangri-La Hotel.

About 400 defence technology policymakers, chief executive officers and chief technology officers from industry and thought leaders from academia and think-tanks attended the event.

They discussed, among other things, artificial intelligence, sensors and drones pioneered by the military but adopted for commercial use.

 
 
 

Mr Tan said that organisations like the DSTA must be able to attract talented people who understand things like artificial intelligence and autonomy and create "enduring architecture" to meet the needs at hand.

"We don't know all the innovation, so we have to reach out, not just in the defence ecosystem, but to go out to the commercial side as well," he said.

Mr Tan also said that 400 of DSTA's engineers are trained in design innovation, and "many of our people" are trained in how to incorporate "cyber-safe design" in many of the systems being created.

He said the army's latest armoured fighting vehicle, the Hunter, illustrated such innovation.

Commissioned by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on June 11, it was developed by the DSTA with the Singapore Army and ST Engineering.

Mr Tan said: "If you look at the interior battlefield management system - we call it the integrated cockpit - actually it's adapted from a fighter aircraft cockpit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Defence tech firms must be agile: DSTA chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe