Singapore Defense Budget Announced As RSAF Draws Lessons From Conflicts


RSAF's main air superiority platforms are the F-15SG and F-16C/D.

Credit: Chen Chuanren/Aviation Week Network

SINGAPORE—Singapore has increased defense spending by 2.5% in its fiscal 2024 budget to S$20.2 billion ($15 billion), primarily to keep up with inflation. 

As the budget was announced, the head of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) shared his priorities ahead of Singapore Airshow 2024. The service has been drawing lessons from recent conflicts around the world, which RSAF says reinforce the need for air superiority, cross service integration and constant innovation.

In written answers to questions shared on Feb. 18, RSAF chief Maj. Gen. Kelvin Khong gave his view on how the stalemate between Russia and Ukraine could have been avoided.

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict has reinforced the importance of achieving air superiority. I believe that, if either side had achieved air superiority, the conflict would have taken on a very different trajectory. There is a higher probability that it would not be so long and protracted,” he wrote.

“I believe recent conflicts have reinforced the importance of cross-domain and cross- service integration. In battles where air forces have freedom of action and where air power is tightly integrated with forces on the ground, we see successful outcomes. On the other hand, where air power is absent, or where air power is not well integrated with other domains, the outcomes are less desirable,” he said.

The Russia-Ukraine war broke out weeks after Singapore Airshow 2022, when Khong gave his last airshow interview.

War in Ukraine and recent Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea have seen the role of conventional air defense expanded, but also an increased cost asymmetry, Khong noted, as cheap "air littorals" have needed to be countered.

Referring to low-cost uncrewed air systems (UAS) and attack drones, Khong said that short-cycle innovation and adaption had unlocked "disproportionate operational value" on the battlefield.

“But we also know that such innovation can be quickly countered, which then drives the imperative to continually innovate so the adversary is unable to keep up,” Khong added.

Khong also touched on RSAF's addition of the Lockheed Martin F-35, the first service in Southeast Asia to acquire the fighter. Training is expected to begin when RSAF receives the first four F-35Bs sometime in 2026, followed by eight more in the later years.

“We are also keeping close watch on the F-35 developments and continue to work with the F-35 Joint Program Office to ensure that the F-35 aircraft can meet our stringent operational and safety requirements,” Khong said, in a nod to questions around the delays to the platform's Technology Refresh 3 update. 

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.

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