Need to gear up for hybrid warfare

Need to gear up for hybrid warfare
A Ukrainian serviceman deployed at a trench in the Donetsk region. Dr Ng cites the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula as a prime example of how states are using hybrid warfare to achieve their gains.

It is a type of warfare that is as old as war itself, but today, disinformation is opening a new front that every country has to defend itself against.

Amplified by social media, disinformation can cause disunity and dissent among the population, warned Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament yesterday.

Singapore is not immune to this new threat in the changing military landscape.

It has to update its tactics and the know-how to detect and counteract threats in cyberspace and the information sphere, he added.

These efforts will include setting up cyber-defence units and sharpening Singapore's capabilities in using infocomm techonology, robotics and artificial intelligence, said Dr Ng during his ministry's budget debate.

"No country, including Singapore, is immune to this disinformation war. The SAF will have to raise capabilities to detect and counteract such threats in the cyber and info domains," he said.

Hybrid warfare is a military concept that involves using conventional weapons and unconventional tools, such as economic sanctions and communications, to achieve victory without resorting to open war.

Responding to Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) and Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC) on how the Singapore Armed Forces will respond to emerging threats like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Dr Ng said such groups are increasingly using hybrid warfare to "fracture the solidarity" of a targeted country.

He said the use of these conventional and unconventional tools of warfare is the "exact antagonist" of Total Defence, a concept that Singapore had already embraced back in the 1980s to protect itself.

He cited the annexation of Crimea as a prime example of how states were using hybrid warfare to achieve their gains.

Likewise, terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS have been able to spread their false ideology and attract thousands of fighters to their cause.

Dr Ng said these incidents have stepped up the urgency for countries to relook their defences against hybrid warfare.

"Challenges as we see it are not neatly compartmentalised," he said.

"And it is a difficult question, but at the centre of it, if it threatens Singapore and Singaporeans, even if it comes in uncommon labels or unconfined labels, we will have to respond to it."


This article was first published on Mar 6, 2015.
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