She's the one with game-changing ideas

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25 Mar 2020 | PEOPLE

She's the one with game-changing ideas

// Story by Thrina Tham

// Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of Ms Ng

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Need to contact someone? Just WhatsApp. Quick and clear communications, however, isn't always easy to come by - especially when you're out at sea.

Back when the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)'s Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) was being designed, there was one big question on the minds of the core team of engineers: What system should we prioritise in the stacked mast?

Traditionally, ships would prioritise its sensor system which allows it to detect threats and targets.

But Ms Ng Hwee Ping, then Programme Manager (Naval Communications Programme Office) at the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), had a different idea - she proposed to have the communications system at the top of the mast instead.

"A warship cannot fight alone. The communications system is how it gets support from other ships and the headquarters.

"Getting the prime spot at the top of the mast would ensure all-around communication coverage," explained Ms Ng, who was involved in the LMV design from 2009 to 2013.

The 46-year-old is among DSTA's first batch of engineers, having been with the organisation since its formation 20 years ago.

The LMV adopts a stacked mast - a tall structure on modern ships that houses equipment - which maximises communications and sensor coverage while allowing convenient access for maintenance work.

Her bold idea meant having to balance new trade-offs while not compromising the LMV's performance.

Issues that cropped up included ensuring systems compatibility and integrating the various complex systems and equipment with limited space.

The DSTA team powered through these challenges, working closely with their RSN counterparts to understand operational requirements and tackle the problems through innovative engineering ideas.

The result? The LMV became the first RSN warship to have an unblocked 360-degree satellite communication coverage based in a single location. Previously, ships had to place their communications systems at multiple locations to minimise blockage and achieve a similar effect.

Ms Ng (front row, fourth from left) with the DSTA team who worked on designing and developing the RSN's LMV.

"The good thing is that everyone works for a common outcome. That's what I have enjoyed the most: the collaboration," said Ms Ng.

To finally see the first LMV launched in 2015 was especially momentous for her.

Following that project, she led another team to introduce the concept of an Unmanned Systems Mission Control for the RSN, meant to be the nerve centre to coordinate unmanned vessels and operations.

She now oversees the development of systems architectures to realise strategic capabilities for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), as Director (Systems Architecting) at DSTA.

This involves ensuring that complex defence systems and networks operate effectively together to help the SAF evolve into the next-generation fighting force.

Ms Ng (in dress) joined the then-Defence Technology Group in 1997, before it merged with other organisations to form DSTA in 2000.

On celebrating DSTA's 20th anniversary this year, Ms Ng said that she is glad to have worked alongside other dedicated personnel throughout her career in the organisation.

"It's the people around me who motivate me (to carry on). Whether in times of success or obstacles, there is always someone with you."

For one, she recalled the advice given by her teammate Ms Chia Quee Tin, who is now Head (Communications) at DSTA's Systems Management Programme Centre.

"I recall her sharing with me that our work is important as it ensures that our families sleep well at night," said Ms Ng, a mother of one.

"It was this shared conviction in safeguarding the national interest that has inspired me till today."



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