Power, water disruptions, drone attacks to be staged across S’pore as part of Total Defence Exercise

"While it will be nothing like what a full-scale attack on the Republic would entail, the exercise is a reminder of what can happen to disrupt Singaporeans’ way of life should Total Defence fail," said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Gracia Yap

Gracia Yap

The Straits Times


Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen was the guest of honour at the launch of Exercise SG Ready on Feb 15, 2024. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

February 16, 2024

SINGAPORE – For the first time, an islandwide Total Defence Exercise, Exercise SG Ready, was launched on Feb 15 to commemorate 40 years of Total Defence Day.

The exercise, which runs till Feb 29, involves more than 500 educational, community, commercial and government organisations. They will take part in exercises that simulate attacks on Singapore carried out by an anonymous aggressor using various means.

These include disruptions to power, water and food supplies, disinformation campaigns, phishing and drone attacks.

While it will be nothing like what a full-scale attack on the Republic would entail, the exercise is a reminder of what can happen to disrupt Singaporeans’ way of life should Total Defence fail, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Exercise SG Ready was launched at an event at South Beach Tower in Beach Road by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong.

DPM Wong said in a video message that Total Defence has kept Singapore safe and guided its people through many challenges, including terrorism, financial crises and a pandemic.

“We overcame these challenges and emerged stronger, because we worked together, stayed united, and each one of us played our part. That is the essence of Total Defence,” he said.

Total Defence remains crucial in Singapore’s next phase of nation-building as our external environment becomes more complex and volatile, added DPM Wong.

Noting that existing security threats like terrorism show no signs of abating, he said: “We also have to contend with new threats, such as more sophisticated cyber attacks and hostile information campaigns, as well as the growing impact of climate change.”

He urged everyone to use the exercise to learn about the threats facing Singapore, reflect on society’s readiness to deal with them, and to practise what to do when they happen.

Total Defence is commemorated on Feb 15, when British forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II at 6.20pm. The Japanese occupied the country till Sept 12, 1945.

Dr Ng, who was guest of honour at the launch of Exercise SG Ready, said in his speech that Total Defence becomes more relevant when troubles increase around Singapore or the globe.

He cited the war in Europe, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and possible war in Asia if the United States and China come to blows.

He noted that in Europe, some countries lamented they had forgotten that self-defence cannot be summoned up just when they need it most.

He said: “This is, of course, after Russia invaded Ukraine. They were of the mindset that (they) would reap peace dividends after the Cold War, and some of these countries even stopped their national service.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, they regretted it. They wanted to reinstate national service, but they found that they could not do that, even with the potential aggressor at their doorstep.”

These examples teach Singapore to be thankful that previous and present generations have kept up Total Defence to this day, he added.

Dr Ng said Total Defence – which consists of military, civil, economic, social, digital and psychological defence – needs to be a collective and continuous effort by all Singaporeans in good times and in bad.

“If we can do that, then Singapore can remain independent, strong and secure,” he said. “What happened on 15 February 1942, when our country capitulated, will not happen again.”

Businesses participating in the drills included Bain & Company South-east Asia, which on Feb 15 simulated a disruption of power and water at its office in South Beach Tower.

The firm had earlier carried out a phishing drill that involved sending out a suspicious e-mail to employees. Out of 270 employees who handled the e-mail, 30 per cent reported it while 13 per cent fell prey to it.

Chairman Edmund Lin told the media: “We focused on three disruptions, but there could be an infinite number of scenarios. We have to be vigilant.”

Members of the public whom ST spoke to near exercise locations such as Esplanade MRT station said that the islandwide drills are a useful reminder to not panic should Singapore come under attack one day.

Civil servant Benjamin Boey said a cyber attack could bring down online banking services, which means people would flock to banks and ATMs as few carry large sums of cash these days.

The 48-year-old said: “No one would be fully prepared in the event of an attack, but I won’t be panicking. I would watch the news for updates on what we can expect, and whether the situation will be short or long term.”

The public can find out more about the timings and locations involved in the exercises at the SGReadyGoWhere website.

They can key in a postal code, street or building name to get information on the duration, type and location of simulated disruptions.

scroll to top