Updated: 03/06/2014 23:40

A robust SAF needs steady defence spending



Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (© File Photo)

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (File Photo)

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says a robust and resilient approach is needed to build a Singapore Armed Forces that can meet a wide range of security threats, and would not be caught off-guard. 

He says this is important because the major global security challenges in the last decade such as the attacks on the World Trade Centre Towers in New York, SARS and piracy, all came as surprises. 

Speaking during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate, Dr Ng says the SAF's robust approach to defence capability is made possible by Singapore's steady defence spending over the years. 

And this will continue as it has reaped significant benefits. 

"We will avoid sharp spikes unless security risks require increased spending. We will also avoid sharp dips in spending that will undermine our defence capabilities over the medium term." 

Dr Ng says Singapore's defence budget has roughly kept pace with inflation, growing to over $12 billion last year (2013), from $8.6 billion in 2004. 

And Singapore's default approach to defence spending is to upgrade existing technology whenever possible, instead of buying new ones. 

"Our planning horizons are intentionally long term and we spend prudently and steadily. This steady defence spending allows us many 'opportunity buys', for example, the refurbished Leopard Tanks from Germany." 

Mr Ng says the SAF of the future will be one that is highly connected. 

"Which means that whether it's the fighter pilot in the air, the sailor out on the oceans or the soldier on land, each will be able to see the big picture, and beyond that, speak to each other to jointly target threats and orchestrate responses. This concept of a networked force is now a reality, and the SAF, a front-runner in realising its full potential." 

As for defence platforms, Mr Ng says the Army will be almost double the number of units that will operate on wheel or tracks by 2030. 

The Terrex Infantry Fighting Vehicles, for example, will allow the Army to deal with mobile threats in an increasingly complex urban environment. 

And by 2030, the Air Force will have acquired Singapore's next-generation fighter aircraft, while its existing F-16s will get upgraded radar and have more precise air-to-ground weapons. 

Meanwhile, the Navy is studying its need for larger Landing Ship Tanks that can carry more helicopters, as well as more cargo, following the Navy's experience in providing relief efforts in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.

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