Monday, December 21, 2015
Singapore's TeLEOS-1 satellite can serve Total Defence as eye in the sky
In a country where civilian assets such as trucks, planes and ships can be requisitioned for national defence, it should come as no surprise that there’s a part for space-based assets in Total Defence.
Singapore’s TeLEOS-1 satellite, now in orbit some 500km above the Equator, takes pictures with a 1-metre resolution when it passes the neighbourhood once every 100 minutes or so.
If you need a gadget to exemplify “see first, see more”, this is it.
When it comes to the ability to see above and beyond one’s border, the satellite is hard to beat.
The eye in the sky provides superior overwatch when applied to reconnaissance missions in support of maritime security and safety, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief and environmental activity verification. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the many defence-linked recce applications for TeLEOS-1 too, should its optical sensors be focused on the right stuff.
But this commanding view comes with caveats: Acts of nature (cloud cover or the all-too-frequent thunderstorms) and acts of man (haze, camouflage, concealment, decoys) are potential spoilers that could foil one’s ability to achieve comprehensive awareness.
TeLEOS-1 can be viewed as another asset in Singapore’s multi-layered surveillance network that is quite literally multi-spectrum. These assets range from miniature UAVs launched by hand, F-16C/Ds with recce pods, ground-based radars big and small to airborne early warning assets such as the G550.
In time to come, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will presumably enlist TeLEOS-1’s lofty view of the region to provide yet another tier to its surveillance network.
The ability to update satellite images of the region every 90 minutes or so - rather than days - will be a game-changer for defence planners. This refresh rate will enable defence planners to better discern - sense-make in MINDEF/SAF-speak - the security situation around our city-state.
But to fully maximise the satellite’s recce capabilities, TeLEOS-1 must be integrated with other surveillance assets and a rigorous process for analysing, interpreting and disseminating situation reports based on these satellite images.
Sense-making is sometimes more art than science. This explains why our defence eco-system needs to nurture a base of experienced operators who can fully exploit the potential of our new eye in the sky.
It may sound cliched but People are our greatest asset as our head start lofting a bespoke eye in the sky will eventually be closed by neighbouring countries once they too acquire such a capability. Treasure and nurture them well.
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Posted by David Boey at 8:48 PM