Year 2021
May 2021

Israeli plane that flew over Singapore airspace, territorial waters was doing ‘commercial product demo’: ST Engineering

May 27, 2021
By Ng Jun Sen

SINGAPORE — An Israeli aircraft that circled over Singapore’s airspace earlier this month had been performing a “commercial product demonstration” for defence technology firm ST Engineering.

Responding to online articles suggesting that the flight was meant for intelligence purposes, a spokesperson for the mainboard-listed firm told TODAY that the Boeing 737-400 aircraft operated out of ST Engineering Aerospace’s facilities in Paya Lebar.

The demonstration was done solely within Singapore’s airspace and territorial waters.

“The demonstration has been completed and preparations are being made for the aircraft to depart Singapore,” the spokesperson added on Thursday (May 27).

The aircraft, bearing the registration 4X-AOO, belonged to a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state-owned civil and military aviation manufacturer.

On Tuesday, Malaysian online news outlet MalaysiaNow reported on the four-hour flight over Singapore, describing it as a move that “could trigger tension between the city-state and neighbouring Muslim countries amid renewed anti-Israeli sentiments worldwide”.

The news outlet, launched in September last year, describes itself as being driven by “a small team of experienced journalists who have been with various online portals over the years”.

Calling the modified Boeing 737-400 an “intelligence” plane, MalaysiaNow also linked the move to a Malaysian government announcement last week.

Officials said then that the country was on alert for possible attacks by Israeli agents targeting officials of Hamas, the Palestinian resistance group, who are living in Malaysia.

An exchange of fire between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants, which began on May 10, escalated sharply before a ceasefire came into force on May 21.

The truce was announced on May 20 after mounting international pressure to stop the armed conflict, which claimed the lives of at least 254 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

MalaysiaNow quoted Kuala Lumpur-based defence journal Defence Security Asia as saying that the plane was a test-bed aircraft that might have carried sensitive radar and reconnaissance equipment.

The journal, quoting sources, went on to suggest that the plane was also used for maritime patrol signal intelligence, image intelligence using synthetic aperture radar (an active radar system that can generate high-resolution images), and early-warning or missile defence systems for commercial planes.

In military parlance, signal and electronic intelligence refers to the gathering of intelligence by intercepting signals to determine what they might say or where the signal’s source was.

This is not the same as intelligence agencies that could carry out attacks.

ST Engineering did not give details about the nature of the commercial product demonstration or what the aircraft carried.

Based on TODAY’s checks on flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, the modified Boeing plane made multiple passes over the southwestern side of Singapore on Monday and Tuesday.

Singapore has had a long history of bilateral cooperation with Israel, which stretches back to the Republic’s need to form a defence force after its separation from Malaysia in 1965.

Since 2009, the Republic of Singapore Air Force has also operated the Gulfstream G550 airborne early-warning aircraft, which carries intelligence-gathering equipment that IAI developed.

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Milipol Asia-Pacific

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