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Ng Eng Hen: No malicious intent behind Malaysia-registered helicopter’s unauthorized entry into Singapore airspace

Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, in a parliamentary response on Monday (18 Sept), emphasized the absence of “malicious intent” in the 9 August, incident when a Malaysia-registered civilian helicopter unintentionally breached Singapore’s airspace, prompting a rapid RSAF F-16 fighter jet response.

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SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen clarified in a written parliamentary answer on Monday (18 Sept), that there was no “malicious intent” behind the incident on 9 August 2023, when a Malaysia-registered civilian helicopter accidentally entered Singapore airspace, prompting the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to scramble two F-16 fighter jets.

The incident in question occurred when the helicopter was engaged in a contracted mission to capture photographs of a Malaysia-registered oil rig during its transfer from Pasir Gudang to Miri, Sarawak. It erroneously entered Singapore’s airspace without proper authorization.

The parliamentary inquiry regarding this occurrence was made by Ms. Joan Pereira, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

She sought answers regarding the safety implications and preventive measures following the RSAF’s response to the Malaysia-registered helicopter flying over the Singapore Strait east of Changi Airport.

Dr Ng’s response provided a detailed account of the event. He clarified that On 9 August, the Malaysia-registered civilian helicopter, identified by callsign as 9MCGA, flew from Senai Airport in Johor and headed towards Pengerang.

During its flight, it transited Changi Control Zone and subsequently entered Singapore Territorial Airspace without prior notification. Singapore Air Traffic Control (SIN ATC) did not receive any flight plan.

“As the helicopter had entered Singapore Territorial Airspace at 1237hrs unannounced, two RSAF F-16 fighters were scrambled, consistent with our Standard Operating Procedures for unidentified aircraft in our airspace which may pose potential threats.”

The helicopter pilot was instructed to keep clear of Singapore Territorial Airspace and to operate eastwards outside Singapore’s territorial airspace.

The helicopter successfully exited Singapore Territorial Airspace at 13:03 hrs, after which the RSAF F-16s stood down at 14:05 hrs, following confirmation that there were no further security threats, Dr Ng added.

While there was no imminent impact of safety on civilian air traffic during the time that the helicopter was in the Changi Control Zone, the airspace around Changi airport had to be closed in responding to the unauthorised entry.

As a result, 36 arriving flights into and eight departing flights from Changi Airport were delayed at the time.

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