Singapore Air Force and Navy leveraging data analytics

Singapore Air Force and Navy leveraging data analytics, AI and robotics for smarter operations and capabilities

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic
of Singapore Navy (RSN) are utilising technologies such as data analytics,
artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for more effective and efficient
operations while reducing manpower needs.

for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen
 and Second
Minister for Defence Mr Ong Ye Kung 
talked about these initiatives during
the Defence Committee of Supply (COS) Debate in the Singapore Parliament on 2

Smart Airbases

The RSAF, jointly with the Defence Science and Technology
Agency (DSTA), is exploring the development of the Smart Airbase concept to be
more effective and efficient in generating and sustaining air power for the
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). 

A factsheet
from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Singapore explains that an airbase is an
intricate and tightly-connected warfighting system. It has to generate the
right number of aircraft in the right configuration, and to take off at the
right time for missions. There is little margin for error.

In the envisaged Smart Airbases the Base Command Post will
be better networked to all airbase systems, and decision support systems (DSS)
enabled by data analytics and artificial intelligence will be used to make
sense of voluminous amount of data and provide recommendations for follow-on

This allows commanders to make decisions faster and focus on
orchestrating dynamic and complex airbase operations.

There will also be more automation and unmanned systems in
areas such as aircraft inspection and maintenance, airbase security, and runway
damage assessments and repairs.

The factsheet lists four specific features of the future
Smart Airbases. The first is Automated
Aircraft Inspection
. Aircraft turnaround time and the workload
on the RSAF's aircraft engineers will be reduced with an automated aircraft
inspection system.

Instead of the current pre-flight and post-flight aircraft
inspections, aircraft hangars will be equipped with sensors and Unmanned Ground
Vehicles (UGVs) to perform checks to ensure that the aircraft are fit for

The second feature is a Smart Fleet Management system being developed by RSAF and
DSTA for more proactive maintenance. By applying data analytics to
aircraft information, the system will be able to provide insights on aircraft
performance and proactively recommend maintenance actions. Engineers will be
able to pre-empt problems and carry out maintenance activities before system
failure or before complex problems surface, which require more time and effort
to resolve

The Smart Airbase will also be equipped with unmanned
technologies for enhanced airbase
, operating alongside security troopers. Facial recognition and
biometric verification will be implemented for access control into and within
the airbases.

In addition, more advanced sensors and video analytics will
be used to detect intrusions and suspicious activities. Existing counter-drone
capabilities will also be enhanced with better detection and the use of
"drone-catcher" drones to take down errant drones. 

Self-organised drones will be used to expedite runway damage assessments and repairs and reduce manpower need
for the same. Upon detection of surface anomalies, the DSS will prioritise
runway repair operations and recommend taxi routes to minimise disruption to
aircraft launch and recovery operations. UGVs will also be deployed
concurrently to assist in the repair operations.

Smart Defence
Initiatives by RSN

‍Infographic from MINDEF Singapore (

Singapore is a maritime nation situated amongst many small
islands, and it has to deal with a porous maritime security environment. In
addition, as a maritime trade hub, the waters that the RSN protects are
extremely congested with both large merchant vessels and small craft transiting
through the narrow Singapore Strait.

Innovative ship

The RSN's newest class of ships, the Littoral Mission Vessel
(LMV), developed in partnership with the DSTA and Singapore Technologies
Marine, features many innovative design concepts for both operations and
engineering support. The design process adopted a novel "design the
support" approach, where key downstream engineering and logistics support
considerations were factored upfront in the vessel's design.

Its stacked mast maximises sensor coverage while allowing
maintenance to be carried out more efficiently, and has reduced time spent at
dock for mast-related defects. In addition, the LMVs are designed to be more
capable than the Patrol Vessels (PVs) they replaced.

Key features include (i) the co-location of the Bridge,
Combat Information Centre and Machinery Control Room in the Integrated Command
Centre for more effective and efficient maritime security operations; and (ii)
automation, sense-making and decision support systems for both combat and
platform systems.

This has enabled the multi-mission capable LMVs to be
operated with a leaner baseline crew of 23 personnel, as compared to the 30-man
PVs, even though the LMVs are larger and more complex vessels. The innovative
design solutions to the LMVs are expected to save us at least $65 million
across the 30-year life span of the platform, when compared to the PVs.

Currently, the RSN operates manned ships to patrol the
Singapore Strait and scan the seabed for mines to keep shipping lanes safe for

Unmanned Surface

The RSN is developing three types of Unmanned Surface
Vessels (USVs), namely the Coastal Defence USV to conduct coastal patrols, the
Mine Countermeasure USV with Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (TSAS) to conduct
underwater scans of the seabed to detect mines, and the Mine Countermeasure USV
with Expendable Mine Disposal System to conduct mine disposals.

The key features of the USVs include:

High Speed and Better
: The USVs are designed for high speed and
manoeuvrability for its operations. The USV’s hull also enables good
sea-keeping, allowing the USVs to operate in the Singapore Strait even during
monsoon seasons.

Autonomous Navigation
with Collision Avoidance
:  The USVs can navigate safely and operate
autonomously in proximity with other vessels with the in-built Collision
Detection and Collision Avoidance system. The USVs are also able to manoeuvre
autonomously by waypoint navigation and maintain its position relative to other
vessels. This reduces the workload and frees up the capacity of the operator
remotely controlling the USV in the Singapore Strait, which is the busiest
shipping lane in the world, to have increased situational awareness and ability
to detect suspicious activity.

Low Manning: With
the high level of autonomy and integrated Command and Control systems aboard,
the Operator Control Station located ashore or on board platforms at sea, can
control the movement and payload of the USV with minimal manpower

DSTA worked closely with the RSN to achieve semi-autonomous
operation of the TSAS, through an automatic Launch and Recovery System that
allows the operator to remotely launch the sonar and recover the sonar upon
completion of survey operations. In addition, the fully automated detection and
classification system on board the USV is able to rapidly detect and classify
mines, reducing the time required by more than 50%.

Equipped with advanced sensors and software, all three types
of USVs will provide comprehensive maritime security for Singapore. When
operational, the USVs can perform their tasks at much lower cost and with less
manpower than manned platforms. The Coastal Defence USVs will eventually take
over the role of patrols in the Singapore Strait, which is currently undertaken
by the PVs and LMVs.

This will allow manned warships, like the LMVs, to be
deployed at further ranges from Singapore, and more strategically for complex

Data analytics for
predictive maintenance and sense-making capabilities

Like the RSAF, the RSN is exploring the use of data analytics
for predictive maintenance. Equipment maintenance on board the ship is
currently conducted according to pre-planned schedules.

The RSN is conducting trials to use data analytics on key
equipment parameters such as engine health, vibration and temperature data on
critical systems to predict when defects may occur. Ship crew will then be
triggered to take pre-emptive steps to prevent defects and avoid costly

Currently, trials for predictive maintenance of the
frigate's diesel generators are being conducted and the resultant cost savings
are projected to be $1 million per year, with the potential to adapt it for
other systems.

As the national lead for the Whole-of-Government
(WoG) Maritime Security
(MARSEC) efforts, the RSN is continually refining
the system and leveraging data analytics improve detection of anomalies and its
sense-making capabilities. 

The RSN has a comprehensive network of coastal surveillance
sensors to detect any maritime threats in the Singapore Strait. It is
collaborating with DSTA and DSO National Laboratories to develop video
analytics to automatically classify vessels and flag out anomalies, in order to
increase situational awareness and reduce human error.

This will increase the RSN’s operational efficiency and
translate to manpower savings of about 30%, as personnel who were previously
conducting manual scanning of video screens can now focus on higher-end tasks.

The RSN-led Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC)
is developing a sense-making system that collates and fuses information from
Whole-of-Government agencies and open sources, and applies data analytics to
uncover MARSEC threats and activate operational responses to deal with possible
terrorist plots.

For example, the National Maritime Sense-Making Group (NMSG)
within the SMCC analyses data from a vessel's voyage and its crew's
"pattern of life" to assess potential threats. This information has
been used to cue other national agencies to check suspicious vessels and even
deny specific crew members from entering Singapore.

NSMG has also worked with the Police Coast Guard (PCG) to
analyse parameters of previous smuggling incidents to obtain the vessel types
that has a higher probability of being involved in smuggling activities. This
has allowed the PCG to be more targeted in the vessels they inspect. 

Smart base access

Currently, the base security screening process is
labour-intensive and time-consuming. The RSN has started a Smart Base Access
project that utilises a combination of facial recognition and digital
identification to simplify the currently labour-intensive and time-consuming process
of base security screening, while maintaining high security standards.

Without the need for laborious verification methods, the
Smart Base Access project will reduce the number of security personnel required
and could generate savings of $160,000 per year in Changi Naval Base alone. The
trial for Smart Base Access will start at the end of February 2018.