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Equipment - Republic of Singapore Air Force

In 1968, when the Singapore Air Defence Command (SADC) was set up, its only aircraft were one purchased Cessna 172K and two borrowed Cessna 172G civilian planes. It seemed more of a dream than reality that Singapore could ever build an air force capable of preserving its own airspace. For these pioneers, however, their quest never wavered, and the rapid expansion of the Air Force in the ensuing decades was to begin in earnest early on.

Flying Training School (FTS) was inaugurated in 1969 with the arrival of the first aircraft, the Cessna 172K basic trainer. More aircraft acquisitions followed. Also in 1974, the Bloodhound missile system was unveiled as the first surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. A year later, the Westinghouse AN/TPS-43 radar took its place in history as the first mobile radar system.

The transformation that took place was rapid. Over the years, Hawker Hunters were replaced by F-16 Fighting Falcons; Alouette IIIs and Bell 212s were succeeded by CH-47D Chinooks and AH-64D Apaches; Shorts Skyvans made way for Fokker-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA); and Scout Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV) retired as Searcher Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) were introduced. In the field of land-based air defence, the Bloodhound SAM system and air defence radar unit were all that was on hand back in 1975; but by 1997, the Air Defence Systems Division (ADSD) was formed. Reaping the benefits of operational synergy, ADSD commanded a formidable array of six weapon types and numerous sensor systems.

Two models of fighter aircraft were imported by the air force for ground-attack missions in the 1970s and continued to be utilized for that role in 1989. Three squadrons with sixty-three McDonnell Douglas Skyhawks comprised the largest component of the ground-attack force. The A-4S/S1 could be used for bombing missions and close air support. Some of these aircraft were modified by Singapore Aircraft Industries for antishipping and antisubmarine warfare. In 1989 one squadron of thirty British-produced Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft was still flying. However, these aircraft were replaced by twenty F-16 fighter-bombers in the early 1990s.

The Skyhawk story began with the purchase of over 50 ex-US Navy A-4Bs which had been stored in the desert boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona in 1972. The initial batch of pilots and instructors returning to Singapore in 1974 from training at NAS Lemoore, California formed the nucleus of two squadrons, 142 and 143 Squadrons. In 1984, a decision was made to refurbish the ageing fleet. A non-afterburning version of the General Electric F404-GE-100D turbofan, similar to the ones used in the US Navy's F/A-18 Hornet, was selected. The new aircraft, known as the A-4S1/F-404 (since renamed the A-4SU Super Skyhawk) made its maiden flight in 1986. The new engine gives the Super Skyhawk a higher thrust-toweight ratio, lower fuel consumption, and thereby significantly improves overall performance.

The Skyhawk has come a long way in its service with the RSAF. Today it serves in a variety of roles, including strike, ground attack, anti-shipping and even as a back-up interceptor. In 1998, Singapore signed an agreement with France to base a squadron of Super Skyhawks, 150 Squadron, in France for the conduct of Advanced Jet Training. This agreement allows RSAF pilots to train on the Super Skyhawks in the vast expanse of land and water around Cazaux AB in southern France.

In 1977, three Bell UH-1N (Bell 212s) and 17 UH-1H Huey helicopters arrived, allowing the ageing Alouette IIIs to be phased out in early 1978. Two squadrons of Bell UH-1H helicopters, each having a complement of twenty helicopters, were formed in the late 1970s to enable the air force to transport specially trained infantrymen anywhere on the island during combat. If both squadrons were used, the air force could airlift a lightly-armed battalion into battle within hours of receiving its orders. In 1980, these were joined by refurbished UH-1Bs which were retired in 1989, followed soon after by the UH-1Ns. Since its initial UH-1H purchase, the RSAF has followed up with several batches, including six Italian-built Agusta-Bell AB205 helicopters.

The UH-1Hs (Hueys) have seen lots of operational use in their time with the RSAF. However, the Huey's finest hour was undoubtedly what has come to be known as the "Cable Car Rescue". In 19 January 1983, the mast of the drilling ship Eniwetok hit the overhead cables of the cable car service linking the popular tourist island of Sentosa with Singapore, killing seven people. Thirteen more people, stranded in six dangling cars, were winched to safety in a daring late-night rescue carried out by a UH-1N from 120 Squadron. Today the Huey fulfils a wide variety of roles, including troop transport, casualty evacuation, heli-rappelling, underslung load and anti-terrorist operations. It has served the RSAF with distinction.

In 1986 the air force began to import French-produced AS-332B helicopters to augment its force of UH-1H helicopters for troop transport and to provide an improved search-and-rescue capability. The AS-332B had the advantage of a larger troop capacity and a greater combat radius. In 1989 the air force had taken delivery of six AS-332Bs and deployed them for search-and-rescue operations. An additional sixteen AS-332Bs were scheduled to be delivered to the air force in the early 1990s and would be used primarily for troop transport.

Singapore's airspace is monitored round the clock by Air Defence System Divisions' surveillance systems. The main air defence radar is the FPS 117. Short-range tactical air defence radars are the Ericsson Super Giraffe and Basic Giraffe radars and the Portable Search and Target Acquisition Radar (PSTAR) systems. The PSTAR is a lightweight, highly mobile, central search, short-range air defence radar with the capability to track up to 20 targets at one time.

Complementing the ground-based sensors is the E-2C Hawkeye, an Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which was acquired to enhance the RSAF's early warning capability. Operating at 25,000 feet above sea level, the E-2C is able to detect targets up to a range of 200 nautical miles. The E-2C Hawkeye is a sophisticated Airborne Early Warning and Control platform employed to enhance air defence. The improved technology featured in the upgraded E-2C reflects the RSAF's continuous efforts to improve our aircraft capabilities to fulfil its mission of defending Singapore's skies. Sophisticated long-range radar and tracking equipment aboard these aircraft enabled air defense controllers to detect possible enemy aircraft long before they entered the range of Singapore's ground-based defense radar system.

By the end of the Cold War the air force operated four surface-to-air missile systems and deployed antiaircraft guns to protect air bases and radar stations. One unit equipped with British-produced Bloodhound 2 missiles provided long-range and high-altitude protection within an eightykilometer range. Another unit equipped with United States-produced improved HAWK missiles provided defense against medium- to high-flying aircraft at distances up to forty kilometers. Two missile systems were intended for close-range air defense: the British-produced Rapier, with radar and optical tracking modes, had a twelve-kilometer range; and the Swedish-produced RBS-70, which usually was transported on domestically modified V-200 armored personnel carriers, had a five-kilometer range. The air force was equipped with the same types of antiaircraft guns as the army.

On December 12, 2005 the Government of Singapore awarded Boeing a contract to produce 12 F-15SG aircraft for the country's next generation replacement fighter jet, and an option for eight additional aircraft at a future date. The F-15SG is an advanced version of the U.S. Air Force's F-15E Strike Eagle. "We have been working toward this moment for several years and are excited and honored to provide the people of Singapore with the F-15SG, which will be equipped with the most technologically advanced avionics and weapons systems available," said Joe Hoerter, Boeing F-15 Program vice president. "Boeing will begin delivering the aircraft in 2008, which will allow the Republic of Singapore Air Force to begin replacing its retired A-4SU Skyhawks. All 12 aircraft will be delivered in 2008 and 2009." The F-15SG will greatly enhance the capabilities and operational readiness of the Singapore Armed Forces.

By 2010 the overall design of Singapore's air defence is based on a multi-layered air defence system. Forming the inner layer are the Oerlikon 35mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Systems, the Igla, and the Mistral. In addition, the RBS70, designated primarily for the protection of deployed Army Divisions, is used to augment the National Air Defence System before being assigned to the Army. While the I-Hawk deals with medium-level threats, the Rapier complements the I-Hawk by taking out low-level, high-speed intruding aircraft. The system has a short reaction time and is highly mobile. The second layer and medium-level air defence is formed by Raytheon's Improved-Hawk (Homing All-the-Way Killer) missile system, more commonly known as the I-Hawk. The majestic I-Hawk system provides high- to medium-level air defence.

Two squadrons with thirty-five Northrop F-5E and F-5F interceptors aircraft based at Tengah Air Base provided the nation's first line of air defense. The first squadron of F-5s was formed in 1979 and the second in 1985. The F-5, equipped with AIM9J air-to-air missiles, would perform well in combat against most other types of fighter and bomber aircraft. If necessary, aircraft assigned to the ground-attack squadrons could be used for air intercept missions.

Fighter interceptors form the outermost layer of defence. This role is primarily undertaken by the F-16 Fighting Falcons. The F-16s were long the RSAF's most sophisticated front-line aircraft, fulfilling a wide range of roles from interceptor to maritime strike. Despite its age, the F-5E Tiger II supersonic jet interceptor remains a credible fighter. It is easy to manoeuvre and difficult to spot because of its small size, making it as deadly as other newer aircraft types in close combat.

By 2010 Lockheed Martin probably wanted to sell the F-35 to Singapore as an F-16 replacement, but Singapore may prefer to upgrade its F-16s rather than replace them. Singapore needs technology that will help them overcome quantitative inferiority.

The AH-64D Longbow Apache is a twin-engine, four-bladed, multi-mission attack helicopter with a tandem-seated crew of two. The versatile helicopter is the first helicopter developed specifically for day, night and adverse-weather combat missions. The Apache is self-deployable and survivable and can carry a lethal array of armament. It features an integrated Target Acquisition and Designation Sight (TADS) and Pilot Night Vision System (PNVS), which enables the crew to navigate and conduct precision attacks in day, night and adverse weather conditions. The Apache is also capable of being equipped with the Northrop Grumman millimetre-wave Longbow radar. The Longbow fire control radar incorporates an integrated radar frequency interferometer for passive location and identification of radar emitting threats. Millimetre wave performs under poor visibility conditions, is less sensitive to ground clutter, and is resistant to counter-measures.

In 1994, the RSAF announced the purchase of the Boeing Vertol CH-47D Chinook heavy lift helicopters. In terms of cargo capacity alone, the Chinook's 12,945kg (28,557lbs) useful load is almost three times that of the AS332M-1 Super Puma. They are utilised for support of Army operations, with a capability to carry more than 50 fully equipped troops. In 1984, the RSAF purchased the Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) AS332 Super Puma helicopters for its medium transport/utility role. The green-brown camouflaged Super Puma works closely in support of all branches of the armed forces, carrying out tasks such as heliborne assault and payload lifting. Its impressive capacity (22 fully equipped troops/4,500 kg slung payload) makes it an extremely capable aircraft.

The RSAF ordered the Fokker 50 aircraft from the Netherlands in the early 1990s. Delivery of the aircraft began in 1994 . These new aircraft replaced the Shorts Skyvan in the Maritime Patrol/light transport role. The use of infra-red technology, such as the Forward Looking Infra-red Turret (FLT) for the Super Puma (left) and the Infra-red Detection Set (IRDS) for the F-50 MPA (above), further enhances RSAF's search-and-rescue capabilities by allowing missions to be conducted at night and in adverse weather conditions.

In 1977, the RSAF purchased four secondhand C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to fulfil its medium-lift transport requirements. These were used to support the Air Force and Army, and proved to be such a useful platform that the RSAF ordered more aircraft, this time later C-130H models, in the mid-1980s. It was around this time that the RSAF began looking at mid-air refuelling capabilities for its aircraft, and converting some of its C-130 fleet looked like the best option. Trials were successful, and soon all C-130Bs were converted into KC-130B tankers. This was followed by subsequent purchases of another C-130H and KC-130H. Today all C-130s are frequently deployed overseas to support the regular Army and Air Force exercises with friendly armed forces throughout the region.

Equipped with the Multi-Point Refuelling System and the refuelling boom, the KC-135R is the RSAF's first tanker, capable of providing air-to-air refuelling for all fighter aircraft. Four RSAF F-16C/D Fighting Falcons from its Peace Carvin II and III detachments in the United States were redeployed back to Singapore in an exercise to practise the RSAF's expeditious recall of its overseas-based assets. Two RSAF KC-135R tankers provided air-to-air refuelling support for the 17,000km journey. Preparations for the longrange redeployment involved extensive planning and coordination between the RSAF and US Air Force.

One of the smallest aircraft in RSAF's orbat, but by no means the least important, is the Searcher Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The RSAF announced in early March 1998 that it had purchased the Searcher UAVs to replace its ageing Scouts. The UAVs operate closely with and in support of Army operations, including battlefield surveillance and in directing artillery fire against targets behind the front lines. The built-in autopilot has a "Return Home" mode if the command uplink is lost.

Boeing and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) on 05 April 2010 celebrated the arrival of the RSAF's first five F-15SG aircraft at Paya Lebar Air Base, Singapore, where the aircraft were formally inducted into the F-15SG squadron. The F-15SGs returned to Singapore from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, following 10 months of rigorous air-to-air and air-to-ground testing and development programs with the U.S. Air Force/RSAF 428th Fighter Squadron. RSAF pilots, weapon systems officers and ground crew personnel were relocated to Mountain Home in 2008 to set up the joint 428th Fighter Squadron. On 19 November 2009, the U.S. Air Force and RSAF celebrated the inauguration of the 428th with a ceremony at the base.

The F-15SG is the newest, most technologically advanced multirole F-15 aircraft ever built. It provides a new capability that enables Singapore to defend its sovereignty as one of the most strategically important global trade regions in the world. The F-15SG's speed, power and agility make it the ultimate multirole fighter. Versatile in all missions, the F-15SG moves the RSAF into the next-generation force. The F-15SG's integrated sensor suite, which includes an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and a third-generation SNIPER targeting pod, will provide the RSAF with long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. Its state-of-the-art cockpit, advanced avionics and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System provide increased situational awareness and enhanced air-to-air and self-defense capabilities.

On 28 September 2010 ST Aerospace announced it has been awarded a contract to procure 12 M346 aircraft and ground based training system for the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) fighter pilot training in Cazaux, France. The acquisition cost of the aircraft, ground based training system and associated spares are worth S$543m, and delivery of the first aircraft is expected in 2012. This contract is primed by ST Aerospace, which will undertake the overall management of the program. The M346 aircraft will be provided by Alenia Aermacchi while Boeing will supply the ground based training system. In 2008, ST Aerospace teamed with Alenia Aermacchi and The Boeing Company to form a consortium to jointly bid the M346 aircraft for the RSAF Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) replacement program.

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