The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is well-positioned for the future as it takes a long-term perspective in its planning.
This includes studying the latest-generation F-35 fighter jets and investing in advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, said Chief of Air Force Mervyn Tan.
As a small nation facing a future fraught with uncertainty and challenges, the commitment, dedication and resilience of RSAF's people will continue to play a critical role in safeguarding Singapore's sovereignty, he added.
In an e-mail interview released on Sunday ahead of the Singapore Airshow 2018, Major-General Tan gave his views on topics relating to the air force's 50th anniversary this year, future challenges and plans. The year-long celebrations will be launched tomorrow at the Airshow, where President Halimah Yacob will unveil an F-15SG fighter jet painted in RSAF50 colours.
MG Tan said: "The RSAF has always taken a long-term perspective in our planning. This approach has allowed us to invest in capabilities that not only meet our near-term defence needs, but also enable us to address evolving threats."
One example is the investment in advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The UAVs enhance the Singapore military's "battlefield awareness as well as security agencies' ground situation awareness to better orchestrate responses for homeland security operations", said MG Tan, who took over as air force chief in March 2016.
With the F-5s retired after reaching the end of their operational lifespan, the air force has upgraded its F-16s and is evaluating the F-35 as an option to further modernise the fighter fleet and maintain its combat edge, he said. "This is to ensure that we continue to have a capable fighter fleet to defend Singapore's sovereignty and interests into the foreseeable future."
The F-35B will be in Singapore for the first time at the biennial Airshow, which takes place from Feb 6 to 11 this year. The fifth-generation fighter aircraft has been developed by United States defence company Lockheed Martin.
Emphasising the importance of the air force to Singapore as a small nation, MG Tan said airmen and women are trained to perform a wide spectrum of peacetime operations, such as humanitarian and disaster relief missions, besides defending Singapore's sovereignty.
The instances when the RSAF has responded to the call of duty include rescuing stranded passengers during the 1983 cable car disaster, participating in counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and contributing to the Defeat ISIS Coalition in the Middle East, he said.
Meanwhile, the air force has overcome challenges such as training in Singapore's "small and congested airspace". This was done by conducting some training overseas and using simulators.
MG Tan also pointed to the RSAF's people as its greatest strength. "It is their professionalism, commitment and resilience that will enable us to achieve mission success," he said.
"With this firm foundation, I am confident that the RSAF will continue to be the deterrent, dependable and dominant force that is capable of defending Singapore's sovereignty and interests, and fly our flag high into the future."