Imagine running a reconnaissance mission over an enemy airbase, capturing images of the layout of the facility. You try to spot out the nerve of launch and recovery of the airbase, the control tower, but you find none. You deploy electronic warfare vehicles near the airbase to tap into radio signals or to jam them, but there are none. Last resort, you unleash artillery fire to destroy the runway, but they are intercepted and knock out of the sky.
In horror, you see the enemy airbase deploy aircraft on its own, taking off and hunt your artillery as they try to scoot away.
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen mentioned earlier this July that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) are studying the prospect of the Next Generation ‘smart’ Airbase. With Paya Lebar due to be closed within the next two decades, it gives the opportunity for the RSAF to rethink the design of their airbases as Tengah and Changi airbase are set to be expanded and redeveloped.
Dr Ng highlight the ‘possibility’ of a highly automated airbase with enhanced survivability. Thanks to Google Maps, one can now spot every nooks and cranny of airbase from the top. Ever more than before, there is a need to enhanced the survivability of airbases.
Key facilities like the tower might be a thing of the past. Already a reality in Sweden, there are technology remote or virtual tower where terminal control is done elsewhere. In a military context, this would probably be somewhere highly protected and hidden. With more advanced Air Traffic Management systems, radars and datalink, controllers are able to launch and recover aircraft with cameras situated around the airfield.
Similarly, radio communications would be replaced by secured datalink communications, eliminating any radio chatter. If comes to fruition, the two jet airbase could even be controlled by a single ATC / C3 unit in a remote location.
Dr Ng also primed the possibility of an enhanced air defence ‘shield’. By 2018, when the Aster SAM is probably due to arrive, all HIMAD in the RSAF arsenal are capable of knocking munitions out of the skies. This shield will not only defend SAF camps, but also preventing civilian assets from collateral damage or a unconventional attack from someone with malicious intent.
While we see the impending demise of PLAB, whats more exciting is the unlimited potential Tengah and Changi could bring to the RSAF.