Chief of Defence Force,
Chief of Air Force,
Deputy Secretary (Technology),
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good afternoon.
The very foundation of a nation's sovereignty is in its ability to protect its skies and borders. The RSAF has shouldered the responsibility of safeguarding Singapore's skies for fifty years, on a 24/7 basis, around-the-clock. Ever so often, we are reminded that we cannot let our guard down. The 9/11 attack which happened more than a decade ago still serves as a stark reminder of what can strike us if we are not vigilant. As a small island state, Singapore has no strategic depth and even the smallest error could mean an airborne attack could happen within a few minutes.
A robust air defence capability gives Singaporeans the confidence to go on about their daily lives, and is paramount to safeguarding Singapore's status as a regional and global hub. Singapore is heavily reliant on our air and sea lines of communication. The RSAF's protection of our skies also extends to the international community and the many travellers that transit through Singapore on a daily basis. Changi Airport is one of the world's busiest airports, handling a record number of more than 62 million international passengers last year. That's almost 170,000 people that fly in and out of Singapore every day. In April this year, the RSAF proved its vigilance and responsiveness when it responded to an alleged bomb threat on a Scoot flight. You would have read about it. Two F-15SG fighters were in the air escorting the aircraft within mere minutes of being activated. It turned out to be a false alarm but we may not be so lucky in the future.
The Next Generation RSAF plays a critical role in our air defence and also deters would-be attackers. Our network of air defence capabilities protects Singapore and Singaporeans from a wide range of air threats, and safeguards Singapore's status as a regional and global aviation hub. Today, it is in this context that we commemorate the Full Operational Capability, or FOC of the SPYDER system.
CAPABILITIES OF THE SPYDER
The SPYDER replaces the Rapier system, which has served us well for over three decades. The SPYDER is an improvement from the Rapier system as it is able to intercept not just aircraft but also munitions, therefore widening the spectrum of threats that our air defences can tackle. An all-weather system equipped with advanced infra-red and radar-guided missiles, the SPYDER can intercept aerial threats at more than twice the range and three times the altitude of the Rapier, while engaging multiple targets at the same time. The SPYDER system is also more manpower-efficient. It only takes four men 15 minutes to deploy a SPYDER – a vast improvement from the one hour needed for 15 men to deploy the Rapier. As a result, we now have a more capable system that can run on a leaner team, tackle more threats from a greater distance, and do so much quicker than before.
The SPYDER is also the first of our next generation air defence systems to be fully integrated into our indigenously developed, networked air defence system. This allows it to tap on an integrated air picture created by a wide array of sensors, for enhanced awareness. As a result, the SPYDER can respond faster and with greater precision to incoming threats. Being part of a network also makes it less prone to single points of failure, making it more robust.
Achieving FOC for the SPYDER is a significant milestone for 165 Squadron, for the Air Defence Operations Command, and for the RSAF, in our journey to strengthen Singapore's air defence capabilities.
COMMITTED PEOPLE IN THE FOC JOURNEY
All FOC journeys are stories of hard work, sacrifice, and above all, an unyielding can-do spirit. The SPYDER journey is no exception.
Let me first commend the men and women of 165 Squadron. The squadron was operating both the Rapier and RBS-70 systems when they took delivery of the SPYDER. In the past few years, the squadron has had to maintain both its existing systems to support peacetime air defence operations, even as they developed new doctrines, standard operating procedures and training systems for the SPYDER. To the men and women of 165 Squadron, past and present, well done. You should be proud of your achievements.
The FOC of the SPYDER was a true team effort. Beyond 165 Squadron, many of our airmen and women from the Air Surveillance and Control Group and 9 Air Engineering and Logistics Group in the Air Defence Operations Command, and also the scientists and engineers from DSTA, also worked tirelessly to bring online new multi-mission sensors, combat management systems and to maintain them at a constant state of readiness. Integrating all the various systems, people, and processes into a fully operational capability was no mean feat.
The journey, as you would expect, was not straightforward. Unlike the Rapier, an advanced system like the SPYDER requires operators and engineers to analyse complex and voluminous amounts of data from the system and other components in the air defence network. To overcome the limitations of manual analysis when conducting maintenance, one of our young Air Force Engineers, 26 year-old ME2 Teo Wei How from 819 Squadron, was motivated to search for a solution. Despite not being trained in programming, ME2 Teo developed an in-house diagnostic tool to automate critical aspects of data analysis process. Known as the SPYDER Data Analyser, his invention significantly reduced the time required for trouble-shooting, from 16 man-hours when done manually to a mere two minutes now. This is a good illustration of what our people are capable of when they are engaged and empowered to innovate.
Our NSFs and NSmen are also playing a big part in this journey. Many of them have been entrusted to support 24/7 peacetime air defence operations. 3SG (NS) Aaron Lew was one of the first few NSmen to be deployed for an overseas exercise, and to be placed on peacetime standby operations. He was deployed during the National Day Parade in 2016, and found the experience so meaningful that he volunteered to be deployed again for NDP the following year. The Deputy Commanding Officer of the Squadron, MAJ (NS) Jervais Choo, is himself an NSman. Jervais is an ex-Regular trained in the Rapier system, and has since converted to the SPYDER system. Jervais has just extended his voluntary NS service under the Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service scheme, more commonly known as the ROVERS scheme. He will continue to serve and lead the squadron for another three years. 3SG (NS) Cheng Heng Perng was the first NSF qualified to drive the SPYDER launcher. He too, voluntarily extended his NS, so that he could see through the SPYDER's inaugural deployment at an overseas exercise – Exercise COPE TIGER in 2014. The commitment and dedication of people like Aaron, Jervais and Heng Perng gives me confidence that we can and will achieve other successes in the future.
The RSAF has come a long way since it was a single air defence command with fewer than a hundred personnel in 1968. Over the years, we have fundamentally reshaped and refreshed our air defence systems, bringing in newer systems that are more technologically sophisticated and more capable. The core mission of the RSAF to protect our nation's skies has been resolutely protected, for the past fifty years. It is fitting that we mark this special milestone for our air defence capabilities in the RSAF's Golden Jubilee year.
I congratulate 165 Squadron, ADOC and the RSAF for achieving the FOC of the SPYDER. Continue to push the limits of the system, train hard, and discharge your duties well. Thank you.