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Singapore Air Force - Why so strong?

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Old January 14th, 2012   #16
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CIA World Factbook lists Singapore as 687 sq km's in land mass...
And Israel has a land mass of 22,072 km˛, which is over 32 times that.
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Old January 14th, 2012   #17
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My geography knowledge isn't great but I think your figures are way off. Based on a quick wiki search Israel is more like 30 times the size of Singapore.
More like 32 times.

I must have been groggy, I usually don't make mistakes that blatant.
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Old January 14th, 2012   #18
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Originally Posted by CheeZe View Post
I remember that there was a military exercise some years ago by joint Malaysian-Indonesian forces codenamed "Total Destruction" or something to that effect. And it happened to take place in Johor Bahru (right across the Straits) during a Singapore national holiday.
The exercise, which involved 2 companies of Malaysian/Indonesian paras was part of an annual exercise, was planned some 3 years in advance and did not take place in JB. You may be interested to know that Malaysia has always viewed Indonesia with more concern and as more of a security challenge or long term possible threat than it does Singapore. It has even been suggested that in private, the Malaysian government has always welcomed a strong Singaporean Armed Forces [SAF] as it views this as a counterweight against Indonesia.

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Originally Posted by CheeZe View Post
Relations between the people, if not the governments, is still really poor.
Not true at all. Bear in mind that both countries, as you well know, share a common heritage and history. Of course there have been hiccups in bilateral relations over the years, but relations at the moment are at an all time high. Both countries are very aware of the fact that ANY serious external threat to either one country, from anyone, would effect both Malaysia and Singapore.

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Originally Posted by CheeZe View Post
If Malaysia decides to attack, the first priority would be to smash their air force. Either on the ground or in the air.
I would think that the main priority for any country contemplating armed conflict against another country would be to try to ensure that as much of that country's air assets as possible are destroyed on the ground or are unable to take to the air when most needed. At present not only is the Malaysian Armed Forces not structured or equipped for any offensive operations on foreign soil but Malaysia has no need or interest to do so. Malaysia's main advantage in the unlikely event that it should choose to initiate hostilities would be geography and if attacked, it's main advantage would be its strategic depth, provided by geography.

Just look at a map and compare the land mass of both countries. When you're done with that, compare the resources available to both armed forces and their respective sizes, their respective operational responsibilities, the national economies and defence budgets of both countries and it will be very clear that the MAF is in no position to attack anyone - it has more than enough on its plate at the moment, meeting its large peacetime operational commitments, a task made no easier by the neglect shown by the Malaysian government towards defence and the indifference shown by a large part of the population towards defence. To give some idea as to the problems or challenges posed to the MAF due to the size of the country - the state of Sabah, in East Malaysia, which is more than 30 times the land mass of Singapore is only garrisoned by a light infantry brigade and it takes a C-130 taking off from a base in Peninsular Malaysia about 3 hours to reach Labuan air base in East Malaysia.

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Originally Posted by phreeky View Post
Singapore isn't exactly a poor country so I guess they're able to have a force they desire, probably unlike some of their neighbours.
As I pointed out in a previous post, due to geography, demographics, etc, Singapore has a more compelling need than it's neighbours to maintain a military edge as it is the most vulnerable.

Last edited by STURM; January 14th, 2012 at 02:47 PM.
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Old January 15th, 2012   #19
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[*] Singapore is small, only 700 sq.km. (270 sq.mi.), Israel is 8 times larger. There is nowhere to fall back to regroup, no way to exchange space for time and call up the reserves or wait for allies, or use attrition tactics to wear down an enemy force. Any landing has to be immediately smashed and driven into the sea before it can be reinforced.
Also answers why they have 100+ Leopard 2s
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Old January 15th, 2012   #20
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They also base some squadrons in Australia and Taiwan for training purposes due to a lack of space to do it locally.
They WHAT? umm, idk bout taiwan, but pretty sure they dont have a squadron "based" here, while they do utilise our bases during joint Excercises, theres no aircraft housed here for singapores benefit.

I was a little disapointed with singapores airforce when on excercise with them early last year. Their pilots maintained a high altitude during manouveres against our ships, while RAAF pilots waved while sweeping past our masts, same for malaysians.
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Old January 15th, 2012   #21
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Originally Posted by Lostfleet View Post
When I saw that it had 24 F-15SGs, 70+ F16 Block 50s and older but never the less flying 40+ F5s ( total of around 140 combat aircraft) I realized it had a really big air power.
Supplemental to what Lostfleet posted, I'm just a quick note to let you guys know that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has reduced its number of fighter squadrons from 7 to 5 over the past few years (currently 3x F-16C/D squadrons, 1x F-5T Squadron and 1x F-15SG Squadron), which means the fighter fleet numbers will be lower than what he posted.

There are also two figher detachments in CONUS:-
(i) a F-16C/D detachment at Luke ((Peace Carvin II - 425 FS); and
(ii) a F-15SG detachment at Mountain Home (Peace Carvin V - 428 FS).
To further our discussion, below is a list of the top 4 SEA countries ranked by their defence spending to provide context to this discussion. The defence spending data is from SIPRI*, the Total Fighter Fleet** size data is extracted from Flight International's Dec 2009, "World Air Forces" (keep in mind that this is not the most accurate of sources) and the #No. of Troops (active/reserve) are extracted from the IISS' "The Military Balance 2010".

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1. Singapore
**Total Fighter Fleet in 2009 = 99
(i) F-16C/Ds = 60 (other sources suggest higher numbers)
(ii) F-15SGs = 4 (20 on order)
(iii) F-5S/Ts = 35 (see other source on Singapore F-5s by tail numbers)

#No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 72,500 (active) and 312,000 (reserves)
2009 GDP (nominal) .........................: US$182.23 billion (IMF data)
*Defence Spending as a % of GDP ...: Between a low of 3.9% to a high of 5.1% (from 2000 to 2008)
*2009 Defence Spending...................: US$7,966 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2004 Defence Spending...................: US$6,661 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2000 Defence Spending...................: US$5,997 million (at constant 2008 prices)


2. Indonesia
**Total Fighter Fleet in 2009 = 39
(i) F-16A = 7
(ii) Su-27/30 = 7 (3 on order)
(iii) Hawk 209 = 25

#No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 302,000 (active) and 400,000 (reserves)
2009 GDP (nominal) .........................: US$539.37 billion (IMF data)
*Defence Spending as a % of GDP ...: Between a low of 1.0% to a high of 1.4% (from 2000 to 2008)
*2009 Defence Spending...................: US$4,908 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2004 Defence Spending...................: US$4,840 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2000 Defence Spending...................: US$2,970 million (at constant 2008 prices)


3. Thailand
**Total Fighter Fleet in 2009 = 97
(i) F-16A/Bs = 50
(ii) F-5A/E = 47
(iii) Gripen C = 0 (other sources suggest that it is 6 +6 on order)

#No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 305,860 (active) and 200,000 (reserves)
2009 GDP (nominal) .........................: US$263.97 billion (IMF data)
*Defence Spending as a % of GDP ...: Between a low of 1.1% to a high of 1.5% (from 2000 to 2008)
*2009 Defence Spending...................: US$4,117 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2004 Defence Spending...................: US$2,673 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2000 Defence Spending...................: US$2,702 million (at constant 2008 prices)


4. Malaysia
**Total Fighter Fleet in 2009 = 59
(i) Su-30MKM = 18
(ii) F/A-18D = 8
(iii) MiG-29 = 10
(iv) RF-5E= 9
(v) Hawk 208 = 14

#No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 109,000 (active) and 296,300 (reserves)
2009 GDP (nominal) .........................: US$192.95 billion (IMF data)
*Defence Spending as a % of GDP ...: Between a low of 2.0% to a high of 2.6% (from 2000 to 2008)
*2009 Defence Spending...................: US$4,078 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2004 Defence Spending...................: US$3,691 million (at constant 2008 prices)
*2000 Defence Spending...................: US$2,122 million (at constant 2008 prices)
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Originally Posted by Lostfleet View Post
I know strategically Singapore is in a very critical place, a big portion of the worlds shipping crosses at Malacca Straits but I don't much about the Singapores relations with its neighbours or its geopolitic position in the region. I would be very happy if someone tells me the reasons for investing so much at their Air Force.
Doctrinally, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) does not intend to defend Singapore at the gates of the city, as it were and is capable and resourced for 'foward defence' of our country. Our thinking on defence is something that is not well understood by casual observers and often leads some misunderstanding. The SAF's declared mission statement is to "enhance Singapore’s peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory over the aggressor". And I believe the SAF is resourced to carry out the mission statement. It is clear from this post that Singapore has some military power. However, our ability to be seen in exercising this power is constrained by current geo-political reality.

Q1: Why is Singapore so restrained in its use military power?

Ans: We use the SAF to achieve political ends but usually not to conduct war (because war in of itself is a blunt policy tool). The SAF is usually used by Singapore to win friends and influence other countries (and not to fight with them). The SAF has been consistent in our contributions at a time of crisis or help in policing the global commons, to see (be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Timor Leste, CTF-151, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and so on).

Singapore tries to maintain with the Indonesian defence establishment warm relations via the conduct of regular bilateral exercises and professional exchanges, which have strengthened the mutual understanding and friendship between the two armed forces (see this Republic of Singapore Air Force Video Exercise Elang Indopura 2010 - YouTube). On the defence front, the SAF and the TNI have co-hosted an ASEAN Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise in 2011. The strong familiarity between both sides and the close personal ties, have allowed the SAF and TNI to work well together in times of emergency and need. Singaporeans will not forget how the TNI provided valuable assistance to Singapore in the search and rescue operations, following the Silkair MI-185 crash in Palembang in 1997. The SAF and the TNI have also worked closely together in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, such as the relief efforts in Aceh following the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, Yogyakarta in 2006 and the Padang earthquake in 2009. BTW, somewhere between 50 and 70 TNI-AU pilots come to Singapore every year for simulator training (see DPM Mr Teo Chee Hean's remarks at the Indonesia Defence University in Dec 2010).

Further, the mere presence of the SAF deters potential aggressors from using force. So ironically, the presence of military power, may reduce the necessity of using military power.

Q2: Why does Singapore focus so much attention on air power?

Ans: Singapore lacks strategic depth and our forces cannot retreat from the city into the jungle. Therefore, it is crucial for us to at least maintain air parity, or if possible, win air superiority so that we can protect the city from aerial bombardment and employ our air power to our tactical advantage to enable us to establish local superiority in battles.

Q3: Why build the Singapore navy, when you have air power?

Ans: We are not self sufficient in food (over the long term) and we need trade to ensure that our city does not starve in a naval blockade. It is no good if we can defend Singapore island but cannot import food because of a naval blockage. In fact, just an increase in insurance rates will affect the price of goods imported into Singapore. Being able to defend Singapore island itself is meaningless if we cannot keep our SLOCs open. Further, air power can have a multiplier effect on the Republic of Singapore Navy's capabilities.

As WWII has shown, a good defence plan for Malaya (against the then external Japanese invasion from the north) from should start at the appropriate geographical choke point in Thai territory (see Appendix 2 for Map of the opening blows in the Pointer Monograph on page 64). The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) landed in Thai territory and proceed to march south. Likewise, in WWII, the Japanese attacked Malaya and Pearl Harbor almost at the same time. In a similar act of tactical brilliance and excellent command of operational art by the IJA, Singapore both fell faster than the IJA had hoped. There is also a Pointer Monograph on the mistakes in the Malayan Campaign, including a chapter on operational art shortcomings by LTC (NS) Singh.

Q4: Beyond terrorism, what are the other potential threats to Singapore?

Ans: Currently, there is a possibility of a troubled peace with our immediate neighbours. This includes the possibility of some state and non-state actors not honouring signed agreements (and they have their stated willingness or intent to do so) so as to introduce sudden disruption to the economy of Singapore.

In fairness, Malaysia has NEVER cut off water supply to Singapore. However, during times of tension, or domestic political upheaval in Malaysia, often there would be calls by local Malaysian politicians to cut off the water supply in violation of international law. In fact, Singapore gets blamed for very imaginative things by Malaysian politicians including floods in Malaysia (which I would believe is caused by weather patterns. I also want to point out that:
(i) On 26 March 1991, four Pakistani terrorists, claiming to be members of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), hijacked SQ 117 from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur with 129 passengers and crew. On 27 March 1991, members of our Special Operations Force (SOF) stormed the plane, killing the four Pakistani hijackers and freeing all passengers and crew. The late Ms Benazir Bhutto issued a denial of PPP's involvement. However, it should be noted that Asif Ali Zardori, the husband of the late Ms Bhutto and current President of Pakistan was included among several Pakistani prisoners whom the hijackers of SQ117 wanted released. However, this is not the only terrorist related activity that is linked to events occurring in Malaysian territory - See this RSIS article. I'm not saying that the Malaysian Government has any thing to do with these events (rather that there are security events that occur on Malaysian soil and we need to work with their security agencies).

(ii) After the SQ117 hijack from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur on 26 March 1991 (instead of expressing sympathy, promising to tighten security or increasing security cooperation, as Malaysia had done with the US in the aftermath of Sept 11), the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) chose to conduct, an airborne assault exercise, codenamed Pukul Habis (Malay for 'Total Wipeout') on 9 August 1991, with a drop zone in southern Johor just 18km from Singapore. Singapore's response was measured and confident. We triggered an Open Mobilisation on the eve of Singapore's 26th National Day (and in context, not as harmless as Sturm represented in his post). This mobilization meant that many thousands of Singaporean families could not spend time together (by virtue of the fact that Singaporeans were reporting to camp) on a public holiday because our neighbours decided to saber rattle.

(iii) According to a senior Malaysian military officer, the MAF was put on alert in late 1998 as politicians on both sides of the Causeway argued over the status of a CIQ checkpoint. News articles from the period chronicle the public exchanges, but say nothing of the defence postures that the SAF and MAF adopted during this period (See this article by David Boey). Thankfully, Malaysia-Singapore relations are much improved since Dr. M left office.

(iv) Pedra Branca has been a source of bilateral tension between Singapore and Malaysia since 21 December 1979 (when Malaysia unilaterally redrew their maps and claimed Pedra Branca as their territory) and these incidents of tension have been documented by Prof. S. Jayakumar and Prof. Tommy Koh in a 2009 book called "Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court". It is also a matter of ICJ court record that Malaysia which had in the past arrested Singapore's fishing vessels to increase tensions, including through the use of physical violence against Singapore fishermen in the vicinity of Pedra Branca. Further, at page 46 of the book, the two authors stated that:
"Of particular concern was a marked increase in the number of intrusions of Malaysian Government vessels in the waters around Pedra Branca. For example, from the period 1990-2000, there were some 64 incidents. However, in the next eight years from the period 2000-2008, there were a total of 563 recorded intrusions with the highest number of incidents (167) in 2007 alone. These Malaysian actions did not make any sense to us because the Court would take into account only the conduct and activities of both sides prior to the critical date."
The incidents quoted above are a clear indication of hostile intent by the Malaysian Government as they try to create 'alert fatigue' for the Singapore forces deployed there. The fact that incidents after 24 July 2003, made no legal sense at all (as that was the date both countries issued a joint notification to the Registrar of the ICJ, with regards to the agreement to adjudicate the dispute), is an indication of Malaysian hostility (which contributes to the bilateral trust deficit). Looking at the pattern of behaviour, it is clear that the Malaysians were potentially planning an incident if the ICJ ruling was unfavorable (but thankfully, UMNO were able to claim that the ICJ judgment was win-win, despite the fact that the ICJ ruled that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore).
Indonesia also suddenly cut-off the supply of sand to Singapore in Feb 2007. This was recognized as having an adverse economic impact on Singapore and we have since found other sources of sand supply. Further, in May 2008, the Regional Indonesian Assembly of Batam threatened to block ConocoPhilips' ability to supply natural gas to Singapore (under a 20 year long term sales contract), as the some gas supplied to Singapore passes through Batam via the Grissik-Batam-Singapore Pipeline (as Batam at that time was suffering from alternate power cuts and who can blame them for being upset). BTW ConocoPhilips earns more revenue by selling natural gas to Singapore, as we buy at a higher price. Batam on the other hand buys at lower prices and are also not committed to a long term contract.

While the disputes with the Indonesian navy (over the sand and granite issues) and their local authorities (over natural gas supplies for power generation) are not immediate causes for war, they are potentially disruptive to Singapore's economy. You could also argue that given the more interdependent nature of the economies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, there is less incentive to go to war. Over the last 40 years, intra-ASEAN trade has grown, enriching our peoples, which has helped set the stage for the possibility of greater geo-strategic stability. The current problem is more related to the uneven distribution of wealth.

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Originally Posted by My2Cents View Post
They also base some squadrons in Australia and Taiwan for training purposes due to a lack of space to do it locally.
There are no permanent fighter RSAF detachments in Australia or Taiwan. The Singapore army still maintains bases in Taiwan but the SAF is very low key about our presence and about our unilateral exercises in Taiwan.

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Originally Posted by icelord View Post
They WHAT? umm, idk bout taiwan, but pretty sure they dont have a squadron "based" here, while they do utilise our bases during joint Excercises, theres no aircraft housed here for singapores benefit.
However, there are RSAF aircraft housed at two locations in Australia:
(i) RAAF Base Pearce is home to the RSAF's 130 Squadron, which uses the Pilatus PC-21 trainer; and
(ii) a Super Puma detachment is based at the Australian Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland.
Many thanks to the Australians for hosting the SAF and RSAF at various locations over the decade. There are also frequent joint and multi-national air force exercises with the ADF. There is even an annual unilateral SAF armour exerise, with air-land integration training (65 day Exercise Wallaby @Shoalwater Bay, which hosts about 5,500 SAF personnel and over 400 SAF assets).
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Last edited by OPSSG; January 15th, 2012 at 07:47 PM.
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Old January 15th, 2012   #22
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They WHAT? umm, idk bout taiwan, but pretty sure they dont have a squadron "based" here, while they do utilise our bases during joint Excercises, theres no aircraft housed here for singapores benefit.

I was a little disapointed with singapores airforce when on excercise with them early last year. Their pilots maintained a high altitude during manouveres against our ships, while RAAF pilots waved while sweeping past our masts, same for malaysians.
Perhaps that was the role scripted for them?
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Old January 15th, 2012   #23
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its the pilot discretion for how low his/her strafe is.... And I doubt the script was that detailed to include precise altitudes for the bomb runs on the ships...
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Old January 15th, 2012   #24
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About.pakistan air force

Sir kindly tel me about pak.air force.comparing with indian air force its just for my info.

Admin. The thread title is about the Singapore Ar Force. Off topic material should be discussed in any pre-existing relevant thread or one started to do so.

This thread is NOT about Pakistan or India

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Old January 15th, 2012   #25
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This mobilization meant that many thousands of Singaporean families could not spend time together (by virtue of the fact that Singaporeans were reporting to camp) on a public holiday because our neighbours decided to saber rattle.
As you've mentioned this exercise before on a number of occasions, I decided to provide some clarification. I can't say for certain whether or not it was ''sabre rattling'' as you allege and I will not speculate but what I do know is -

1. The exercise, as was the drop zone and the code name, was planned [by a Malaysian/Indonesian planning group] well in advance of any diplomatic tensions with Singapore, being part of an annual series of exercises between Malaysia and Indonesia [Malindo Darsasa] - it just happened to be Malaysia's turn to host the exercise that year. The exercise was not sudden or did not happen out of the blue because of a downturn in Malaysia/Singapore relations.

2. If indeed the intent was to ''sabre rattle'' perhaps Malaysia would have used more than a company of paras and a handful of C-130s? The MAF was not placed on full alert at that time and there was no increase in military activity amongst units that were not participating in that exercise. And would Indonesia have gone along with this Malaysian attempt at ''sabre rattling''?

3. As to the drop zone being 18km from JB, it has been the main drop zone in the south since the 1960's, was used before by the British, and is used not just for para exercises by the 10th Para Brigade but also for basic jump training. It was not selected for the sole purpose of creating any mischief or due to its proximity to the Causeway.

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Old January 15th, 2012   #26
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its the pilot discretion for how low his/her strafe is.... And I doubt the script was that detailed to include precise altitudes for the bomb runs on the ships...
I'm suggesting that unless we know the context of the exercise, we can't assume anything. perhaps the RSAF was assigned to provide top cover to the strafing jets? Perhaps they were simulating the use of some longer-range weapon system? I don't think if their pilots were instructed to fly low and strafe that they wouldn't be capable of doing so.
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Old January 15th, 2012   #27
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Singapore has to maintain relative strong Air Force and Capable Navy. Just to the size of Singapore, they have to keep any potential Invading force from Singapore soil. If any invading force able to put significant enough strong hold on Singapore's soil, and that's the beginning of the end of Singapore as Independent nation.

In short Singapore has to have strong AF, because they can't afford not to have it. Even if Indonesia (as the largest neighbor as example) able to build 10 Fighter sq just like Indonesian MEF (Minimum Essential Force) dictate, the current Singaporean AF still relatively stronger since those 10 Indonesian sq has to maintain much larger air spaces then 5 Singaporean AF sq.

The concentration force of Singapore Armed forces compared to the amount of territory that they have to defend is something that none of her neighbor can compete in near or medium term.
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Old January 16th, 2012   #28
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I was a little disapointed with singapores airforce when on excercise with them early last year. Their pilots maintained a high altitude during manouveres against our ships, while RAAF pilots waved while sweeping past our masts, same for malaysians.
As low as this ?

Falklands War - YouTube

The whole point of flying at mast level is to make it hard for MG gunners. But in the future will dumb bombs attacks still be carried out on surface targets? Perhaps the RSAF pilots saw no need to go so low or maybe they were tasked with CAP.
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Old January 17th, 2012   #29
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They WHAT? umm, idk bout taiwan, but pretty sure they dont have a squadron "based" here, while they do utilise our bases during joint Excercises, theres no aircraft housed here for singapores benefit.

I was a little disapointed with singapores airforce when on excercise with them early last year. Their pilots maintained a high altitude during manouveres against our ships, while RAAF pilots waved while sweeping past our masts, same for malaysians.
They keep PC-21 trainers and Super Puma's here...
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Old January 21st, 2012   #30
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They keep PC-21 trainers and Super Puma's here...
I was wondering, has Singapore renewed the agreement with India to continue using Kalaikunda AFB ? IIRC that agreement expires somewhere early in 2012.
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