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Singapore Air Force - Why so strong?

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Old January 13th, 2012   #1
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Singapore Air Force - Why so strong?

Good Morning,

While I was wondering around the world's air forces in wikipedia this morning ( yes I know I should be working at the office) I began to read about Singapore Air Force.

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.

Comparing with the neighbours Malaysia has 18 Su-30s, 8 F/A-18s, 18 F-5s, 14 Mig-29s and 13 BAE Hawks,

Where as Indonesia has 29 BAE Hawks, 24 F-16s, 15 F-5s, 5 Su-27s and 5 Su-30s

Further neighbours,

Vietnam has 15 Su-27s, 24 Su-30s, 124 Mig-21s, 53 Su-22s

Thailand - 55 F-16s, 12 JAS-39s, 29 F-5s

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.

( all of the plane number references are taken from Wikipedia)
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Old January 13th, 2012   #2
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I would be very happy if someone tells me the reasons for investing so much at their Air Force.
Unlike it's neighbours - which are all much bigger countries but have smaller economies and defence budgets, a whole list of other priorities to address and who's main priority for decades was internal security against the threat of insurgents - Singapore has been able to concentrate it's resources towards external security [this is not say however that Singapore in the past has not been faced with internal security problems, during the Emergency and the Confrontation]. Take Malaysia and Indonesia for example, the main priority of the Royal Malaysian Air Force [RMAF] and the Tentera Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara [TNI-AU] for many years was to support the army's ground ops, assist in the governments national developments efforts, disaster relief, etc, not to deal with fighters intruding in national airspace or to participate in high intensity tri-service operations against a foreign country. Unless the defence budgets of countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are increased, they simply can't afford to maintain a fighter fleet the size of Singapore's, and it can also be argued that they don't have to.

Singapore's small size, the vulnerability of its sea lanes to interdiction and the fact that it is surrounded by much larger countries, with which it has had disputes in the past, means it has to take its defence very seriously. One reason the RSAF has the number of fighters is does, is to be able to take on 2 neighbouring countries simultaneously [Malaysia and Indonesia], if the need arises. The possibility, thought extremely unlikely, that these 2 Muslim countries might have ''cooperated'' jointly in the past, was factored in by Singaporean defence planners. Apart from the threat posed by terrorism, something that worries most if not all regional countries is the possibility that China in the future might attempt to create hegemony, not the possibility of a full scale war with fellow ASEAN members.

Last edited by STURM; January 13th, 2012 at 07:55 AM.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #3
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What they went through in WW2 might have something to do with it?

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.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #4
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Traumatic experience they had during the World War 2 is a very good motive to have a good defense strategy,

However on the other hand in my humble opinion even half of the current Air Force would be a sufficient deterent for a joint Malaysian and Indonesian attack. Since the area to be defended is very small I think Singapore has the upper advantage to be able to concentrate all of their defending forces in a smaller area. Also F-15s and F-16 Block 50s are very serious aircraft.

STURM, what kind of trouble do you think can China create for Singapore in case of a war? It is too far to be attacked from mainland and even if they had two Kuznetsov sized carriers I dont think it would be a sufficient air power for attacking. If they conduct a suprise attack with strategic weapons ( conventional long range missiles) to knock-out all of the airfields, maybe then? Or even if they dont go one-on-one on each other, what would be involvement of Singapore with the ASEAN alliance?

Also when I look at the air bases from google earth, I couldnt see any protective aircraft sheltering, I just see some shadings, either I cant see it because they have good camouflage or they dont have it?
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Old January 13th, 2012   #5
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Traumatic experience they had during the World War 2 is a very good motive to have a good defense strategy,

However on the other hand in my humble opinion even half of the current Air Force would be a sufficient deterent for a joint Malaysian and Indonesian attack. Since the area to be defended is very small I think Singapore has the upper advantage to be able to concentrate all of their defending forces in a smaller area. Also F-15s and F-16 Block 50s are very serious aircraft.

STURM, what kind of trouble do you think can China create for Singapore in case of a war? It is too far to be attacked from mainland and even if they had two Kuznetsov sized carriers I dont think it would be a sufficient air power for attacking. If they conduct a suprise attack with strategic weapons ( conventional long range missiles) to knock-out all of the airfields, maybe then? Or even if they dont go one-on-one on each other, what would be involvement of Singapore with the ASEAN alliance?

Also when I look at the air bases from google earth, I couldnt see any protective aircraft sheltering, I just see some shadings, either I cant see it because they have good camouflage or they dont have it?
Or they can't be seen from the air...
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Old January 13th, 2012   #6
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Or they can't be seen from the air...
honestly please go and look at their air bases,

in other bases even if they are hidden ( tunnels in the mountains or protective shelters covered with grass) you can see the sılhouette or the entrance

at Singapore there are places where there are some green shades but they dont look like protective shelters
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Old January 13th, 2012   #7
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honestly please go and look at their air bases,

in other bases even if they are hidden ( tunnels in the mountains or protective shelters covered with grass) you can see the sılhouette or the entrance

at Singapore there are places where there are some green shades but they dont look like protective shelters
Singapore uses stretches of its freeway network as runways. They have removable centre dividers and removable light poles - a few hours notice and they can have the roads cleared, swept etc. Aircraft from memory are dispersed around these temporary airbases in side streets etc.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #8
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Originally Posted by Lostfleet View Post
honestly please go and look at their air bases,

in other bases even if they are hidden ( tunnels in the mountains or protective shelters covered with grass) you can see the sılhouette or the entrance

at Singapore there are places where there are some green shades but they dont look like protective shelters

quite a bit of the Sings military hardware can't be seen from google earth

not just air assets
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Old January 13th, 2012   #9
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However on the other hand in my humble opinion even half of the current Air Force would be a sufficient deterent for a joint Malaysian and Indonesian attack. Since the area to be defended is very small I think Singapore has the upper advantage to be able to concentrate all of their defending forces in a smaller area. Also F-15s and F-16 Block 50s are very serious aircraft.
Those aircraft are probably the only long range power projection that Singapore has. They are also a key component of their naval strategy to keep the sea routes open in event of a war.

Singapore military has an interesting history. After British gave them independence Singapore contracted with Israel to design and build their armed forces (A small country thriving despite being surrounded by much larger hostile neighbors bent on invading, sounds like they might know how to do it.), which explains the emphasis on air power.

You also have to look at their strategic position.
  • 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.
  • Singapore is dependent on reservoirs on the mainland for a good portion of their water supply. So there are areas of the mainland they would like to seize and hold for a siege.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #10
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honestly please go and look at their air bases,

in other bases even if they are hidden ( tunnels in the mountains or protective shelters covered with grass) you can see the sılhouette or the entrance

at Singapore there are places where there are some green shades but they dont look like protective shelters
Singapore’s weather is described as ‘tropical rainforest’. In the dry months they only average 6” a month with lots of wind, and twice that in the monsoons (they get 2). You need to do most of your work on aircraft under cover in that climate.

They also base some squadrons in Australia and Taiwan for training purposes due to a lack of space to do it locally.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #11
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Those aircraft are probably the only long range power projection that Singapore has. They are also a key component of their naval strategy to keep the sea routes open in event of a war.

Singapore military has an interesting history. After British gave them independence Singapore contracted with Israel to design and build their armed forces (A small country thriving despite being surrounded by much larger hostile neighbors bent on invading, sounds like they might know how to do it.), which explains the emphasis on air power.

You also have to look at their strategic position.
  • 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.
  • Singapore is dependent on reservoirs on the mainland for a good portion of their water supply. So there are areas of the mainland they would like to seize and hold for a siege.
I concur with your assessment. If you're going to fight a war, no sense prolonging it. Overmatching one's opponent makes this possible.
Re the water issue, AFAIK Singapore is already self-sufficient in water resources via a combination of recycling, desalination and reservoirs to trap rainwater.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #12
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Singapore is small, only 700 sq.km. (270 sq.mi.), Israel is 8 times larger.
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.
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Old January 13th, 2012   #13
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honestly please go and look at their air bases,

in other bases even if they are hidden ( tunnels in the mountains or protective shelters covered with grass) you can see the sılhouette or the entrance

at Singapore there are places where there are some green shades but they dont look like protective shelters
Reckon you could see the second type of underground shelter contained in the attachment on Google Earth? That design existed 60 years ago...

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Old January 13th, 2012   #14
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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.
CIA World Factbook lists Singapore as 687 sq km's in land mass...

https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat...k/geos/sn.html
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Old January 14th, 2012   #15
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I concur with your assessment. If you're going to fight a war, no sense prolonging it. Overmatching one's opponent makes this possible.
Re the water issue, AFAIK Singapore is already self-sufficient in water resources via a combination of recycling, desalination and reservoirs to trap rainwater.
No we're not. We can sustain ourselves with those sources for a short period of time but we're not entirely self-sufficient in that regard. And most of the NEWater goes towards other uses instead of drinking water.

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Singapore’s weather is described as ‘tropical rainforest’.
Rainforest... very little left. East and West coast mostly. But yes, the humidity is certainly an issue for all things mechanical. Wind... I don't think there's all that much wind in the urban areas. And I wish it did rain a little more, helps to cool down the place during hot spells.

Here's the point that I see for a large air force. If Malaysia decides to attack, the first priority would be to smash their air force. Either on the ground or in the air. Either way, you're going to take some losses (men or materiel) from combat or AA fire. Once the RSAF has dominion of the air, the F15s switch to a ground support role. The AH-64s can't be everywhere at once. That too will result in some attrition loss.

Without a local industry that produces combat aircraft locally, it makes sense to have more than necessary so that one can soak up the losses in the event of conflict.

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. And having spoken to some of the Singapore fans (including an ethnic Malay lady) who went to Malaysia for one of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers between SG and MY, really really hostile. Relations between the people, if not the governments, is still really poor.
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