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.
On 28 September 2010 ST Aerospace announced it had 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 would undertake the overall management of the program. The M346 aircraft would be provided by Alenia Aermacchi while Boeing would 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.
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.
Fighter interceptors initially formed the outermost layer of 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.
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.
By 2010 the overall design of Singapore's air defence was 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 dealt with medium-level threats, the Rapier complements the I-Hawk by taking out low-level, high-speed intruding aircraft. The system had a short reaction time and is highly mobile. The second layer and medium-level air defence was 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 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 had 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 allowed RSAF pilots to train on the Super Skyhawks in the vast expanse of land and water around Cazaux AB in southern France.
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