Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen announced in Parliament today, the planned trajectory for the Singapore Armed Forces till 2030. He mentioned in his address to the house the rise of China and the militarisation of Asian nations, and that Singapore is unable to forecast unforeseen threats like 9/11, SARS and the Indian Ocean tsunami. Therefore the Singapore Armed Forces must to robust and resilient to meet these challenges and threats.
He shared that Mindef has always been prudent and steady with their expenditure and their budget allocation has kept up with inflation, $8.6 billion in 2004 to $12.2 billion in 2013. He again reminded that the SAF would always prefer to upgrade their hardware over buying new ones.
Dr Ng showed the house the diagram below on the trends and planned development in the SAF.
First he mentioned that the SAF continue to developed their network centric and integrated warfare, and reiterated that SAF in the future, pilots, soliders and sailors will be able to ‘see, speak and orchestrate responses’ together.
The RSAF in 2030 will have their F-16 all upgraded with the AESA radar, and conducting operations with the similarly radar equipped F-15SG. He hinted that the upgraded F-16 will feature new air to ground munitions, but also at the same time, according to US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, the ability to fire AIM-9X missiles and further integration with JDAM units. Dr Ng finally revealed that RSAF will acquire the A330 MRTT tankers to replace the KC-135R, although no numbers and further info is revealed, it is believed that six of such units will be acquired. See unofficial announcement in January. No further news for the F-35 was mentioned, as he again said Singapore will take their time to evaluate the system.
Dr Ng announced the possible development of a bigger ‘LST’, he said while the Endurance is an effective workhorse, its limitation include her carrying capacity and RSN is studying a larger option. ST Marine has exhibited their Endurance 160 helicopter carrier LHD in various shows lately, and it is not impossible that the next generation LST will be based on that ship. This will be part of a bigger picture of integrating a new helicopter force such as the speculated MV-22 Osprey that was in town last month, and various amphibious land units. RSN will deploy her fifth mission to Gulf of Aden between March to June with a frigate RSS Tenacious and a S-70B Seahawk. You may be keen on older article, ASEAN’s obsession with docking ships and David Boey’s write up on the new RSN Littoral Combat Vessel.
Lastly, the Army in looking into doubling its wheeled and tracked units, making the Army a more mechanised and high mobilised force. He revealed that the Terrex 8×8 will be linked with UAV forces for realtime situational update and Bionix will be upgraded. The upgraded Bionix would probably be the speculated next generation Light tank which the Army is trying to fill since the retirement of the AMX-13. Mindef is also studying the operationalising prototypes of today in the 2030 SAF. Dr Ng revealed examples include micro UAVs for individual soldiers and robotic mules for load carrying. Away from hardware, the SAF is also looking into further developing the SAF Volunteer Corp. Personnel with skills sets like psychology, healthcare and communications will be sent to the respective units, and training for other will be done to meet operation needs. SAF will also increase the number of professional trainers (regulars) in the Army, from the current 1 in 6 to 1 in 3 in the future. This will increase the training effectiveness and values transmitted by these regulars.
It will be an exciting year for the SAF in the next decade or so with new developments into a network centric fighting force. Air, land and sea services will be equipped with new hardware to enable them to meet unforeseen challenges in the years to come. I will further write more on the AESA radar and the ‘LST’ in the near future.