On 9 August Singapore's
air force will conduct an air show over Marina Bay
for the national day parade. F-15SGs, F-16s, and perhaps Gulfstream 550
airborne warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft will buzz the crowd. Two
Apaches escorting a Chinook carrying the Singapore
flag - one way Singapore
compensates for its small size is possession of the world's largest airborne
flag - will fly overhead when the president arrives at the parade venue.
One aircraft that would be most impressive over Marina Bay
is the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. Singapore has not ordered the giant
airlifter, of course, and as far as I know has never expressed interest for the
aircraft. Even so an RSAF C-17 makes sense.
heavy airlift needs are now served by the C-130H Hercules, of which Singapore has six.
It also has four KC-130s that can double as tankers. These aircraft have been
in use for some years and should be due for replacement in the coming decade, most
logically by the C-130J.
On the other hand, Singapore's strategic situation is
unique. Though tiny the nation fields a hard-hitting army, with 96 Leopard 2 tanks weighing in at 62.3 tonnes each, as
well as hundreds of light tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Singapore has
also developed the Primus self propelled gun. This 30 tonne behemoth can fire a
155mm shell from one side of Singapore
to the other. It has never been fired in Singapore because there is not
enough room. None of these vehicles can fit on a C-130, but the C-17 would be a
small size means that a good bit of this armour is regularly deployed a long
distance away, mainly in Australia.
In the event of a conflict this scattering of forces could be an issue,
particularly if Singapore
lost access to the chartered Antonovs it relies on now - although Singapore could
likely use Australian C-17s or American C-5s and C-17s in a pinch. RSAF C-17s would also
be able deliver combat equipment from overseas locations directly into the
combat theatre, providing a measure of operational sovereignty.
Aside from their obvious military applications, RSAF C-17s
would be a high profile ambassador in the humanitarian crises that regularly
afflict neighbours like Indonesia
and the Philippines.
An RSAF C-17 would have no problem flying 160,000lbs of relief supplies into a
3,000 foot landing strip anywhere in Indonesia,
the Philippines, or Thailand.
has never been shy of the public relations that comes from having defence kit
that is unique in the region. Being Southeast Asia's first - and probably only
- C-17 operator would be of great appeal to Singapore's leaders. It would also
be a step up from the A400M, of which rival Malaysia will buy five. And given
the C-17 production line will wind down in the next few years, a C-17 buy would be a great
way to bolster already-strong defence ties with the USA.
Follow me on Twitter: @AsiaJetWatch