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S’pore confident of countering drone attacks like those in Saudi Arabia: Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE — Singapore is confident that it could counter a drone attack similar to the one that damaged an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia if it happened here, with the nation’s military assets able to detect the drones allegedly used in the strikes.

Workers are seen at the damaged site of Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq.

Workers are seen at the damaged site of Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore is confident that it could counter a drone attack similar to the one that damaged an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia if it happened here, with the nation’s military assets able to detect the drones allegedly used in the strikes.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (Oct 7) said this in response to a question by Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency) on what the Singapore Government is doing to prevent a similar occurrence here.

Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were hit by drone strikes on Sept 14, temporarily affecting more than 5.7 million barrels a day, or 5 per cent of global supply.

Noting that Singapore remained at risk of drone attacks by terrorists, Dr Ng said that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has enhanced its air defences against drone strikes over the past decade. 

For instance, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has boosted its early warning capability with more capable sensors like the G550 Airborne Early Warning Aircraft and Multi-Mission Radar.

After being identified, drones will be taken down by the SAF’s Ground-Based Air Defence systems, which have been upgraded. 

The SPYDER system has replaced the older RAPIER system and the ASTER-30 missile system will replace the I-HAWK system, said Dr Ng.

The SPYDER is capable of intercepting targets higher and further than the RAPIER system while the ASTER-30 has both anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities unlike the I-HAWK which can only deal with aircraft. 

“The SAF is confident that these systems can protect Singapore against aerial threats from both manned and unmanned aircraft,” said Dr Ng.

NOT PROPORTIONATE TO USE SOPHISTICATED ASSETS AGAINST HOBBYIST DRONES

Dr Ng also noted that while the Saudi attack was conducted by sophisticated weaponised drones, smaller drones which can be bought in retail stores can also conduct intrusions into restricted airspace, as in the case of Gatwick and Changi Airport.

In December last year, operations at London’s Gatwick Airport were disrupted for three days following drone intrusions. 

Meanwhile in June this year, drone intrusions at Changi Airport over two nights resulted in 55 flight delays and eight diversions.

“These simple off-the-shelf drones can be modified with some know-how to avoid detection by conventional means that most commercial airports employ,” said Dr Ng.

He also noted the existence of drones in between these “two extremes” of sophisticated and store-bought drones that can carry simple munitions such as grenades and small arms, which had been successfully employed by terrorist groups.

Dr Ng said that against this “wide spectrum of threats”, there could be no single counter-response and it would neither be “proportionate nor sustainable” to use sophisticated assets to take down hobbyist drones.

“For these threats, other tools would be required, such as regulations, deterrent fines and penalties, education, and working with relevant stakeholders including drone-hobbyist communities themselves,” said Dr Ng.

He added that for Changi Airport, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore were dealing with possible intrusions from drones. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Singapore Police Force will take the lead in defending against drones in specific areas of security concern and during major events. 

Dr Ng said that the SAF will assist these agencies whenever needed.

LIMITED IMPACT OF SAUDI DRONE ATTACK ON SINGAPORE’S ECONOMY

Separately, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, responding to questions by MP Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, said that the drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s production facilities will have a “limited” impact on Singapore’s economy.

He added that Singapore’s oil supply remained sufficient during the period of outage and that the impact on consumer prices is likely to be small.

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Saudi Arabia crude oil oil prices Ng Eng Hen oil-and-gas industry drone

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