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A new report has said that Singapore is expected to spend $18.57 billion on defence by 2026, up from $15.23 billion in 2021.

The spending will be driven by factors as diverse as terrorism threats to sustaining its large overseas military training presence such as those in Australia. 

This represents an expected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.6 per cent, up from its current figure of 2.58 per cent, according to the report published by London-based data analytics and consulting firm GlobalData.

The report also “offers detailed analysis of Singapore defense market with market size forecasts covering the next five years”, and analyzes factors that influence demand for the industry, key market trends, and challenges faced by industry participants.

Located at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, Singapore is strategically located at a vital maritime chokepoint that is traversed by a significant amount of the world’s seaborne trade.

The prosperous island nation, with a population just short of 6 million people, is highly dependent on the maritime trade which uses its port as a transhipment point, however it has almost no strategic depth to speak of, measuring just under 300 square kilometres in size with its widest point being less than 50 kilometres from one end to the other.  

Key acquisition programs currently being undertaken by the southeast Asian island nation include the Lockheed-Martin F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, indigenous ST Engineering Land Systems Hunter Next-Generation AFV, and the Invincible-class Submarine (Type 218SG) diesel-electric attack submarines being built by Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

Singapore is also introducing the European MBDA Aster 30 ground-based air defence system into service, integrated into its bespoke integrated Island Air Defence System (IADS). It is also introducing the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and Airbus H225M transport helicopters into service, replacing earlier versions of both types (CH-47D/SD Chinook and AS332M/M-1 Super Pumas) in the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

In addition, Singapore also has other acquisition projects in the pipeline. It will seek new Joint Multi-Mission Ships (JMMS) to complement and/or replace its four Endurance class Landing Platform Docks. This is likely to be a through deck ship, with Singapore having previously said it will require the JMMS to operate more helicopters and possess improved air traffic control capabilities compared to the Endurance-class.

Singapore’s navy is also seeking a new Multi-Role Combat Vessel (MRCV) to replace its six 62m Victory-class missile corvettes. These will be larger vessels than their predecessors, and in addition to being armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, are envisaged to act as motherships to a host of unmanned surface, underwater, and aerial vehicles and able to fulfill a variety of mission sets.

The JMMS and MRCVs are almost certainly to be built in Singapore by local defence contractor ST Engineering Marine Systems although substantial input from foreign contractors to assist in the design of vital subsystems is likely to be required. A recent example are eight Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV) currently being commissioned into the Republic of Singapore Navy, with Saab having a hand in the design of the integrated bridge and mast.

Singapore’s army is also seeking a wheeled 155mm self-propelled howitzer to replace the last towed howitzers in its inventory, and will complement the Primus tracked howitzers, rapid firing self-propelled 120mm mortars and HIMARS guided artillery rockets. Like the two former systems, the new wheeled howitzer will also likely be a homegrown design by ST Engineering’s Land Systems division. 

Other likely acquisitions will be replacements for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s fleet of ten Lockheed-Martin C-130B/H Hercules transports and nine Fokker 50 light transports and Enforcer 2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The oldest of the C-130 fleet has gone past six decades in service with the older B models limited to local training missions, although Singapore has not publicised an intention to replace these.

An increasingly complex regional defence picture is also driving many of Singapore’s defence acquisitions, with conventional arms and defence Research and Development (R&D) featuring prominently in its defence budget.

It’s Defence Science and Technology Agency is investing in research in bespoke areas that suit Singapore’s unique environment. This includes emphasis on unmanned systems and reduced crewing requirements, with Singapore being the first customer and assisting in the testing and certification for Automatic Air-to-Air Refuelling in the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which among other things, reduces the aerial refuelling officers’ cognitive workload. 

It has also worked with Airbus to develop a unique boom control law for the MRTT unique for the Boeing F-15 Eagle, and has developed a command and control information system that uses Artificial Intelligence to assist in determining priority for time-sensitive targets in cluttered urban environment and can determine how best to engage a target to ensure a better success rate with lower risk of civilian casualties.

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