Singapore to induct aerostat in surveillance duties; Malaysia might follow suit

October 31, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

A TCOM 74 metre aerostat system. Photo credit: TCOM

Aerostat sytems have proven to be important and cost-effective assets in performing real-time, around-the-clock reconnaissance and surveillance duties over a prolonged duration for militaries around the world.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced this week that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) would deploy a radar-equipped aerostat capable of performing aerial and maritime surveillance from early 2015. The country's increasing number of skyscrapers built over the past decade, and the lack of sufficiently high ground to place surveillance radars, has inhibited present radar systems from establishing a clear line of sight to deliver an air and maritime picture with adequate detection range. The introduction of the 55 metre aerostat system built by US Aerostat specialist TCOM from next year would provide a more cost-effective solution vis-à-vis AEW&C aircraft the RSAF currently operates. When integrated with the existing network of radars, the various sensors would allow overlapping coverage and sufficient redundancy for constant monitoring by agencies keeping a close eye on Singapore's airspace and sea lanes. While no details on the radar payload have been released, close defence ties with Israel could mean the supply of IAI Elta radar systems such as the EL/M-2083 or EL/M-2022, which have been delivered to a number of countries.

Separately, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between TCOM and Malaysian defence company Bintang Kencana for the possible supply of aerostat systems to Malaysia. The aerostats would provide maritime domain awareness over the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), an area which sees regular incursions by armed militants linked to the so-called Sulu Sultanate. The proposed aerostats in the class of 22 to 28 metres could carry payloads including radar and electro-optical infrared cameras that could detect small wooden boats that are often missed by ground-based maritime surveillance radars. As part of the deal, Malaysian security forces would lease the aerostat platforms from Bintang Kencana, which will manage the deployment, operation and maintenance of the system.


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