ARMED marshals will be deployed on Singapore Airlines and Silkair flights in the next few months.
Their main task would be to thwart hijackers, whom security experts still deem a key threat and who are now more likely than before to launch suicide attacks.
Security experts said the undercover agents need to be trained in unarmed combat, and carry stun guns that fire darts to immobilise terrorists, or special bullets that fragment on impact, without puncturing the plane's fuselage.
The agents are likely to be deployed only on selected flights, as SIA and its subsidiary, SilkAir, operate more than 400 flights a week.
Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna identified three aviation threats: hijacking, firing surface-to-air missiles at a plane and attacking it at an airport.
“The suicide threat in hijacking is fast becoming common.”
Singapore announced it was setting up an air marshal unit last December and assembled an aviation security task force with representatives from the Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home and Transport ministries to work out the details.
SIA finished fitting its fleet of 96 aircraft with specially-made reinforced, bulletproof cockpit doors last month. By October, surveillance cameras would be installed on all planes to allow pilots to check on any disturbances in the cabin without leaving the cockpit.
SilkAir has taken similar measures on its nine aircraft. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network