Could Singapore buy C-17s?

c1711.jpgOn 9 August Singapore‘sair force will conduct an air show over Marina Bayfor the national day parade. F-15SGs, F-16s, and perhaps Gulfstream 550airborne warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft will buzz the crowd. TwoApaches escorting a Chinook carrying the Singaporeflag – one way Singaporecompensates for its small size is possession of the world’s largest airborneflag – will fly overhead when the president arrives at the parade venue.

One aircraft that would be most impressive over Marina Bayis the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. Singapore has not ordered the giantairlifter, of course, and as far as I know has never expressed interest for theaircraft. Even so an RSAF C-17 makes sense.

Singapore‘sheavy 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 beenin use for some years and should be due for replacement in the coming decade, mostlogically by the C-130J.

On the other hand, Singapore‘s strategic situation isunique. Though tiny the nation fields a hard-hitting army, with 96 Leopard  2 tanks weighing in at 62.3 tonnes each, aswell as hundreds of light tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Singapore hasalso developed the Primus self propelled gun. This 30 tonne behemoth can fire a155mm shell from one side of Singaporeto the other. It has never been fired in Singapore because there is notenough room. None of these vehicles can fit on a C-130, but the C-17 would be adifferent matter.

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Singapore‘ssmall size means that a good bit of this armour is regularly deployed a longdistance away, mainly in Australia.In the event of a conflict this scattering of forces could be an issue,particularly if Singaporelost access to the chartered Antonovs it relies on now – although Singapore couldlikely use Australian C-17s or American C-5s and C-17s in a pinch. RSAF C-17s would alsobe able deliver combat equipment from overseas locations directly into thecombat theatre, providing a measure of operational sovereignty.

Aside from their obvious military applications, RSAF C-17swould be a high profile ambassador in the humanitarian crises that regularlyafflict neighbours like Indonesiaand the Philippines.An RSAF C-17 would have no problem flying 160,000lbs of relief supplies into a3,000 foot landing strip anywhere in Indonesia,the Philippines, or Thailand.

Finally, Singaporehas never been shy of the public relations that comes from having defence kitthat 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 alsobe a step up from the A400M, of which rival Malaysia will buy five. And giventhe C-17 production line will wind down in the next few years, a C-17 buy would be a greatway to bolster already-strong defence ties with the USA

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