Forces: February 24, 2005

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: Singapore has built one of the most powerful air forces in the world. This is to be expected, due to the highly educated population and the fact that air power is a huge equalizer.

Singapores air force is huge for a country of its size and population (four million people). Well over a hundred combat aircraft are in service, and consist of a mixture of modern fighters, and older planes with the latest upgrades. Singapore also has acquired capabilities that few other countries in the region have.

The most numerous fighter plane in Singapores inventory is the A-4SU Super Skyhawk. This is not your fathers Skyhawk. The aircraft have new engines (a non-afterburning version of the F404 used on the F/A-18), and modern avionics, to include a Marconi HUD, a multi-function display, and a new inertial navigation system. This is the fastest (1128 kilometers per hour) and Skyhawk that has ever flown. Sixty-four of these aircraft are in service in three squadrons.

Singapore has also upgraded its force of 42 F-5E/F Tigers. These new planes, now called the F-5S/T, with a new Grifo F/X Plus radar (also used on Taiwans F-5Es), HOTAS controls (Hands On Stick And Throttle), two multifunction displays, and two extra missile pylons. These Tigers will be potent complements to Singapores best fighters.

Singapores best fighters in service are their force of 26 F-16C and 36 F-16Ds. These Block 52 aircraft are virtually identical to the versions in U.S. service. The major difference has been reluctance on the part of the United States to ship AMRAAMs to the region. These F-16s have reportedly received the Python 4 infra-red homing missile from Israel (which has also supplied the Gabriel), and some of the F-16Ds reportedly have the same dorsal hump that Israeli F-16s also carry. Singapores F-16s are also equipped with the Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Singapore also has acquired a total of twenty AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters. Currently based in the United States, they will eventually provide superb capabilities for Singapore in a variety of roles (depending on which versions of Hellfire are purchased). Singapore also is acquiring CH-47D Chinooks for search-and-rescue and as troop carriers. Nine are already in service, with plans to reach a total of twelve. Singapore has an option for four more CH-47s. There are also 16 UH-1H Hueys and 16 Super Puma transports.

However, Singapores air force has capabilities on par with air forces like the United States. Singapore purchased four E-2C Hawkeyes. These planes are the same as those used by Israel, Taiwan, France, Japan, the U.S. Navy, and Egypt. No other country in Southeast Asia has this capability, which gives Singapore a huge advantage in any fight.

Singapore also has acquired four KC-135R tankers which extends the reach and endurance of Singapores air force. These aircraft can refuel using a centerline boom, or a drogue can be attached. Singapores F-16s use the boom method. The A-4SUs use the drogue method to refuel, and Singapore has also modified four C-130Bs into aerial tankers to support that.

Singapore also has a mixture of Fokker maritime patrol aircraft the F27 and F50 Maritime Enforcers. These planes provide a long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface aircraft. The Fokker F27s have a longer range (5,000 kilometers compared to 3,148 for the F50), but the F50s are faster (522 kilometers per hour compared to 480 for the F27).

Combined with the Republic of Singapore Navy, the Republic of Singapore Air Force outclasses the forces of the other nations in Southeast Asia. It has a solid quantity of top-of-the-line combat aircraft, and capabilities unmatched by other forces in the region. You might be able to overpower the Republic of Singapore Army, but getting an invasion force to Singapore will be very difficult. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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