SINGAPORE — Singapore is acquiring an advanced European air defense system as a replacement for its aging US-made Hawk surface-to-air batteries, the defense chief said Monday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the ASTER-30 Surface-to-Air Missile System, manufactured by European defence firm MBDA, will allow the city-state to counter multiple threats from fighter jets, helicopters, drones and precision guided missiles.
“The ASTER-30’s capabilities are many times more potent than our I-HAWK ground-based air defense system,” he told parliament.
He did not reveal the cost of the system or when Singapore will make the acquisition.
The ASTER-30 system, used by countries like France and Italy, is expected to provide the city-state with an anti-missile and anti-aircraft range of up to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles), Singapore’s defense ministry said.
The current US-made I-Hawk system has a maximum effective range of 40 kilometers.
The tiny island-republic — which is about 42 kilometers in length and 23 kilometers in breadth — also has a shorter range “SPYDER” ground-based air defense system with a range of 15 kilometers.
Ng also said that Singapore is looking to upgrade its F-16 fighter jet fleet to “modernize their avionics and extend their lifespan”.
He said the defense ministry was still evaluating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a possible replacement for its older warplanes.
Singapore also has a fleet of F-15 fighter jets.
Singapore has the largest defense budget in Southeast Asia, thanks to public funds generated by its phenomenal economic growth.
It has set aside Sg$12.34 billion ($9.79 billion) for defense in 2013, up from Sg$11.83 billion in 2012, according to official data.
Surrounded by far larger neighbors, Singapore has pursued a robust defense strategy since its acrimonious split from Malaysia in 1965.
All able-bodied Singaporean men are required to devote two years of full-time military service upon turning 18, providing additional manpower on top of the estimated 20,000 armed forces regulars.