The Singapore Armed Force's (SAF's) new airborne radar system will soon be helping to keep Singapore's skies and seas safe.
The aerostat is a surveillance platform that will provide low-level radar coverage 24/7. The tethered balloon system, which can operate from up to 2,000 feet and has a range of 200km, will complement the SAF's suite of sensors to identify potential aerial and maritime threats.
On 29 Nov, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen observed the local testing of the aerostat system at Choa Chu Kang Camp, where the system will be operated by personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
"(Being a small island) makes us vulnerable to threats either from the air or sea," said Dr Ng.
He noted the constraints of ground-based air defence systems, whose line of sight could be obstructed by high-rise buildings, and unmanned aerial vehicles, which cannot provide persistent surveillance.
The aerostat, however, can overcome these challenges and paint a more complete picture of Singapore's surrounding skies and seas. Said Dr Ng: "It adds another layer of defence and confidence in terms of (the aerial and maritime threats) we are able to detect."
The aerostat was first announced at the Ministry of Defence PRoductivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts (PRIDE) Day awards presentation ceremony in October 2014.
Following more than a year of tests at manufacturer TCOM's facility in the United States, the aerostat is now proceeding with the next stage of tests in Singapore by the manufacturers. These involve progressive and comprehensive checks on all aspects of the aerostat and complex system tuning for local operations. It will be deployed as soon as testing is completed.
To ensure that the system would be able to operate safely in Singapore's congested air space, the RSAF has been working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. The radiation level emitted by its radar has also been certified to be as safe as that of mobile phones.
The SAF had planned to deploy the aerostat in early 2015. However, the deployment was delayed for further testing by TCOM.
Dr Ng explained: "There was some delay making sure that everything was in place as well as floating the aerostat offsite to satisfy ourselves that safety standards were met, and they have been met."
He added: "We wanted to be sure that it was safe and we've satisfied ourselves that it's safe."