Agents of shield

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30 Apr 2019 | OPS & TRAINING

Agents of shield

What happens if a commercial plane has been hijacked by terrorists and is heading towards Singapore? Exercise Vigilant Shield, held on 14 Mar, tests the coordinated efforts of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in tackling such threats from the air.

// Story Benita Teo

// PHOTOS Kenneth Lin & courtesy of RSAF

English Melayu


A passenger on board a commercial aircraft en route to Singapore attempts to hijack the plane, threatening the passengers and crew on board.




The pilots (left) send out a distress signal, which is quickly picked up by (above, from left) the CAAS, RSAF and SPF.




Troops on the ground are swiftly activated: the RSAF’s fighter pilots (top) scramble for deployment, and the I-HAWK (left) and RBS-70 Ground-Based Air Defence systems (centre) are poised and ready. SPF officers get into position (right).




After intercepting the aircraft, two F-16s escort it to land at Changi Air Base. They continue to keep a close watch from the air as it taxis on the runway.




Once the aircraft comes to a stop, police officers dash out to cordon it and the relevant security agencies take over.



“When a threat situation occurs, we must make sure the information flow between the various agencies remains robust and tight, so that the appropriate ground action can be carried out when we land the aircraft.”

Exercise Vigilant Shield 2019 Chief Planner Lieutenant Colonel Zanna Lee

“This exercise was critical in helping our officers practise these processes and make sure that the communication, coordination and movement of officers are in line with our plans.”

Superintendent Chong Chung Meng, Head Operations, Airport Police Division



Always Ready

Exercises such as Vigilant Shield are important for keeping Singapore’s security forces ready to tackle actual incidents.

On the morning of 26 Mar, a Singapore Airlines (SQ) flight from Mumbai reported a bomb threat. F-16 pilots Major (MAJ) Jireh Ang and Captain (CPT) Jonathan Ow were scrambled within minutes to escort Flight SQ423 to land safely in Changi Airport. A search of the plane later found no suspicious items.

While up in the air, the fighter pilots had to communicate with the plane, which was carrying 263 passengers, and carefully observe the situation.

“Once we had successfully intercepted the Singapore Airlines aircraft, we established communications with the pilots through the assigned radio frequency…We also got the pilots’ visual attention, and at the same time, we were able to observe if there were any abnormal activities within the cockpit and the cabin,” said MAJ Ang, a fighter pilot from 143 Squadron (SQN).

“Our regular and rigorous training has ensured that we are always ready for the task when called upon.”

A similar incident happened in April 2018, when two RSAF F-15SG jets were scrambled to escort a Scoot flight headed for Hat Yai, Thailand, back to Singapore when a passenger reported a false bomb threat.

MAJ Ang (third from left) and CPT Ow (third from right), together with their team from 143 SQN.
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