By Jermyn Chow And Lee Jian Xuan
|The larger joint multi-mission ship that the SAF is likely to buy is similar to the Endurance 160 (model above).|
[Translation: SAF buying Helicopter Carrier. Which in an emergency can become Aircraft (V/STOL aircraft) Carriers.]
Such roles include participation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for incidents like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, when the navy deployed three of its landing ship tanks (LSTs) to Indonesia.
"While the LSTs have served us, we're seriously considering a larger joint multi-mission ship that will have greater capacity and greater range," said Dr Ng, adding that his ministry was evaluating the requirements of such a ship. He noted how this ship would have been "very useful" in responding to catastrophes like last year's Super Typhoon Haiyan, which knocked out almost all communications in the Tacloban area in the Philippines.
[Translation: We will need this ship for peaceful purposes, but if necessary, it will have bite. We did say "multi-mission". From Defence News [link broken]:
Though significantly smaller than the 40,000-ton US Wasp-class LHD amphibious assault ships, outfitting a 14,000-ton vessel such as the Endurance with F-35Bs is not a new idea. South Korea’s LPH-6111 Dokdo-class and Japan’s Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyer,” each 14,000 tons, reportedly have had their flight decks covered with urethane to make them resistant to jet engines. ]
The 141m-long landing ship tanks, the largest warships at the SAF's disposal, have been deployed for anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Indonesia.
While its remit becomes larger, the SAF will have to "do more within the means accorded to us", and defence spending patterns will not change dramatically, Dr Ng said.
"We avoid sharp spikes and we avoid deep dips because that kind of defence spending is what we have experienced and what other militaries recognise as the most productive outcome."
The SAF is also expected to do more to tackle non-traditional threats. One example is in the arena of cyber defence, where it is ramping up training, deployment and hiring of officers for its Cyber Defence Operations Hub, established last June to monitor cyber threats around the clock and improve IT security.
The SAF is also setting up a centre in Singapore to coordinate regional efforts in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
This move, which follows a visit by military chiefs to the Changi and Command Control Centre, has earned support from other countries, said Dr Ng.
"They feel that it is an idea that meets the needs of the times, and I would say that we are working out the mechanics."
Amid the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Dr Ng said, small countries like Singapore have to be "very careful".
"We have a very difficult job not getting sucked into any vortex or any orbit. We want to maintain our independence, we do not take sides and we want an architecture that allows room for small countries like Singapore to be able to maintain our own space, to be able to decide our own course."
[Also from Defence News:
Factors driving Singapore’s need to build light aircraft carriers include maintaining the sea lines of communication in the Malacca Strait, consolidation plans that reduce air bases from three to one, lack of strategic depth, and unresolved histories that include animosity and violence with Indonesia and Malaysia.
... “Singapore is in the process of consolidating its three military airfields. The reduction in runways is compensated for by the F-35s ability to take off in a short space. A fully loaded F-35B needs only 168 meters of runway,” he said. “In addition, the F-35B has demonstrated that it can land and take off easily from ships at sea.”]
Political will is needed to defuse tensions and solve the disputes peacefully, he added.
"It is really political will to see how you want the region shaped, what tensions you want resolved and what people see as a situation which benefits everyone."
Note: Some reports suggests that SG has decided to purchase the F-35, but there is no official confirmation (Dec 2015 update: SG in no hurry to buy F35) and some indications that the F-35 may not meet all the promises, and some of the features (like Stealth) may have been overtaken by events. Also, unmanned aircraft may become the newest solution. In future, Aircraft Carriers may simply mean Drone Carriers. ]
See also: Senang Diri Nov 2010
See also: Singapore's Aircraft Carrier Ambition.