Get a close-up look at an AH-64 Apache in service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force at the 2018 Singapore Airshow. (Jeff Martin/Staff)

MELBOURNE, Australia ― Singapore has confirmed it is using the Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopter in an air defense role, as part of the Southeast Asian island nation’s multilayered, networked air defense system.

In response to queries from Defense News, Singapore’s Defence Ministry said “the AH-64D is one of the platforms the Air Defence Task Force can leverage for air defence to protect Singapore against a wide spectrum of air threats.”

Defense News also spoke to some of the crew of the Republic of Singapore Air Force Apaches that were on the static display at the recent Singapore Airshow, who confirmed the aircraft’s use for air defense.

The decision to utilize the Apache in such a role was driven in part by the advantages that the slower Apache has at certain flight regimes, namely against “low and slow” targets such as light aircraft or UAVs; fast jet interceptors may have difficulty keeping station and maintaining visual contact.

Should the need arise, targets can be engaged with the Apache’s Orbital ATK M230 Chain Gun. The Apache crew declined to confirm if aerial targets could be detected and cued with the Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar, although the radar product card says that it is able to search, detect, locate, classify and prioritize “multiple moving and stationary targets on land, air, and water in all weather and battlefield conditions.”

The crew did not disclose whether there are Apaches placed on permanent readiness for Singapore’s air defense missions, citing operational security.

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The Air Force currently operates 20 AH-64D helicopters, with eight based at the Silverbell Army Heliport in Marana, Arizona, for the Peace Vanguard detachment. The remainder are based in Singapore with the service’s 120 Squadron. The fleet is being upgraded with new satellite communications, believed to the Elta-Israel Aerospace Industries EL/K-1891 Ku-band system and an integrated electronic warfare system, which Defense News has previously identified as being from Elbit.

Singapore set up its air defense task force in 2010 as part of the Singapore military’s high-readiness core to monitor its skies as well as respond swiftly and decisively against potential air threats day and night. It leverages cross-domain and cross-function capabilities, such as the Air Force’s suite of sensors, flying platforms and ground-based air defense systems within a networked, integrated air defense system that operates around the clock.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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