New command centre for SAF's counter-terrorist ops

(From left) Sergeant Major of the Army, Chief Warrant Officer Chua Hock Guan; Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou; Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen; Chief Commando Officer, Colonel Kenny Tay; commando unit pioneer Clarence Tan; and former commandos, C
(From left) Sergeant Major of the Army, Chief Warrant Officer Chua Hock Guan; Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou; Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen; Chief Commando Officer, Colonel Kenny Tay; commando unit pioneer Clarence Tan; and former commandos, Colonel (Retired) Noel Cheah and Colonel (Retired) Yeo Eidik, at the commandos' 50th anniversary parade at Hendon Camp yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

It allows soldiers to act more effectively with less manpower in security incidents

A new command centre commissioned yesterday will allow the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) to execute counter-terrorist operations more effectively, and with less manpower.

Drawing different sources of information from other government agencies and from its own drones, the Special Operations Command Centre will be able to plan, monitor and manage multiple homeland security incidents in different areas.

When activated, the centre can receive live feeds from multiple incident sites to allow planners to assess the situation in real time.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who commissioned the centre at Hendon Camp in Loyang yesterday, said that to respond to the growing terrorist threat, the commandos must evolve their strategies, capabilities and tactics.

"The inauguration of the Special Operations Task Force's Special Operations Command Centre represents an important step in the commandos' response to present-day security threats," he said.

The SOTF was set up in 2009, bringing together elite units within the SAF under one command to tackle terrorist threats.

Previously, the SOTF coordinated operations from a mobile command post deployed on-site. This took time to deploy, could be hampered by the weather, and could also be limited by the terrain.

With the new centre, which took about four years to develop with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), there will no longer be a need for the mobile command post.

Commander of the Special Operations Task Force, Colonel Kenny Tay, said that "whatever intelligence and information we put up in (the new centre) can then be sent to the command element on the ground so that they can see exactly what we see".

 
 
 
 

Mr Ng Wee Kwang, 44, who is programme manager for national security at DSTA, said his team met the unit frequently to understand its processes and requirements.

"We harness data analytics to give them key insights to enable the commanders to make a more well-informed decision," he said.

In 1969, then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee headed the establishment of the commando unit, which was formed on Dec 1 that year and comprised 10 officers and 20 other servicemen.

Dr Ng said that among the operations that exemplified the modus operandi of the soldiers with the red berets was the Laju ferry hijacking incident of 1974, and the hijacking of Flight SQ117 in 1991.

"These brave escapades are... a reminder that there will be moments in Singapore's history, and in our future, where the brave and daring actions of a few are needed to save the lives of many, and to act as the sharp end of the spear for the SAF," he said.

He expressed hope that the commandos will "serve as a fearsome reminder to those who would do harm to Singapore and Singaporeans; to stand guard, ever vigilant, poised to attack when called upon, 'for honour and glory'".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'New command centre for SAF's counter-terrorist ops'. Print Edition | Subscribe