Sunday, August 18, 2013

National Day Rally 2013: Quick take on proposal to move RSAF Paya Lebar Air Base

Backgrounder: National Day Rally venue
Now that the National Day Rally is over, Senang Diri can reveal that the post in March on Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Bloodhound Missile Site Bravo was inspired by the unpublicised visit by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to ITE College Central on 20 March 2013.

New roost: S.211 jet trainer 343 has found a new home in ITE College Central along with a UH-1H (below), also thought to have been a former RSAF machine but now sports ITE colours.

We hope this explains why the post appeared seemingly out of the blue in March. The post on Missile Site Bravo promoted awareness of land use planning in Singapore and was later published by myPaper. Please click here for the post "When MINDEF had to do National Service".

I would like to place on record my deepest gratitude to SD's media planners and content advisors for the tutorials which led to the forward-looking piece. Your contributions have lifted this blog to a new level with professional advice and expertise that has helped SD generate and sustain online content.

Proposal to move Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB)
Tonight's National Day Rally speech by PM Lee indicated that the RSAF's Paya Lebar Air Base (WSAP) may move its activities to Changi Air Base (East), presently located on reclaimed land off Changi International Airport (WSSS).

Bear in mind this is a long-term proposal at enlarging the land bank of real estate on mainland Singapore to cater for future development.

How far downstream? Probably 2030 and beyond.

The proposal floated by PM Lee is a bold one. It appears recently hatched as the land use map for 2030 released in January 2013 had left PLAB untouched.

The tract of land presently occupied by PLAB in the eastern part of Singapore is enormous. The footprint of the current air base is just one part of the land bank that urban planners can tap on.

Moving the air base would free height restrictions on buildings in the vicinity of its runways, particularly the end of runway (EOR) at both ends of the base which are now dominated by infrastructure for light industries.

From an operational perspective, the closure of PLAB would leave the RSAF with two air bases for fixed wing aircraft on mainland Singapore. There is one emergency runway on Pulau Sudong which could be turned into a fully operational air base, though field security and resupply across open water may pose challenges during operations.

The point that all RSAF fighters and strike aircraft will be shepherded to two vulnerable bases will, undoubtedly, provide ample talking points for discussions on the wisdom of such a proposal.

Casting our minds forward to 2030, one should bear in mind that the F-5 fighters now resident at PLAB will have long been retired by then. The C-130B/H Hercules transports are also expected to have been partially replaced by then, despite the mid-life upgrade performed by ST Aerospace.

The number of F-15SG Strike Eagles could be expanded by the end of this decade, perhaps with an improved variant of the F-15 family.

In terms of future threats, precision-guided munitions (PGMs) delivered by land, naval or air platforms can be expected to offer ever diminishing CEPs while raising the lethality of their payloads. These include payloads primed for airburst, point detonation or delayed detonation, as well as warheads optimised for deep penetration or weapons with cargo munitions.

All this means that keeping air bases geographically separated on mainland Singapore will offer air platforms marginal protection from a determined, all-out assault if the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) intelligence network fails to provide adequate early warning.

While multiple air bases will dilute the strike potential of an aggressor as multiple locations need to be addressed, the small size of our city-state means all air bases are likely to receive some form of attention should PGMs dominate arsenals of the future.

In addition, our compact land mass means that cruise missile technology, which is presently curtailed under arms control regimes, need not be employed against RSAF air bases. Low tech, shorter range options such as glide bomb kits attached to free fall ordnance can do the job just as well. Fast forward to 2030 and one can expect extended range PGMs to dominate military arsenals.

Passive protection at an enlarged Changi Air Base (East) can offer some protection to RSAF air platforms.

The biggest impact may come from the RSAF's experience in knocking down inbound air/missile strikes with technology that can only be imagined in today's terms.

By 2030, the RSAF is expected to have deepened and widened its expertise with active protection measures such as anti-missile defences, one of which is expected to step up to take the place of the RSAF's long-serving 35mm Oerlikon AA guns soon.

You may also like:
Military land use by the SAF in 2030. Click here

RSAF Space Command. Click here


Anonymous said...

The Population White Paper targets a population of 6.9 million AT 2030. If Lee Hsien Loong envisages moving Payar Lebar Air Base BEYOND 2030, one can only imagine what the future population target will be.

jiaklormee said...

The purchase of F-35Bs in the future might possibly open up new basing arrangements for the RSAF...

Anonymous said...

Lee Hsien Loong's population exercise is a fool's errand.

The aged are not parasites to be supported and preferably cast into one-room flats. Whatever they spend on healthcare is deferred wages for productive work and represents a doctor or a carer's income. If Lee Hsien Loong begrudges this mis-imagined spending without working, he should tell people not to save money and to spend everything in the month they earn it.

His intention to move Payar Lebar Air Base AFTER attaining the 6.9 million figure shows his intention for further growth. In any case, further growth will occur naturally whether he likes it or not. All his readjustment of Singapore's policy is empty talk, and pointedly he did not say that the PAP population target is part of the readjustment.

Does he want 10 million cash cows or something? Apa lagi lu mahu, bangsat!

Anonymous said...

a question for "Apa lagi lu mahu, bangsat!"

is it your blog/website below ?

Tangents: Restless Musings Of A Malay Mind

TheSounDOne said...

Always enjoyed very much reading your article. However, one request I have is perhaps you could explain the acronym that you used? ie "EOR"

Anonymous said...

I could have used a better choice of words. The phrase translates as "What more does the prime minister want (beyond 6.9 million)?"

His moral authority and electoral mandate to do such a thing are in question. So is a conflict of interest because new citizens have a vested interest in further immigration of their compatriots and are his vote bank.

This is not a political forum but the removal of PLAB serves a political purpose.

David Boey said...

Dear TheSounDOne,
Have amended the post to spell out EOR as "end of runway".

Will be mindful of using uncommon acronyms without spelling out in full at first mention.

Best regards,


TheSounDOne said...

Hi David,

Thanks for clarifying on the acronyms.

Anyway, will miss PLAB when it is gone. I remember during my sec & poly school days, sometime would hang around Ubi area hoping to catch a glimpse of those planes as they comes in for landing. Bonus for me if can catch foreign jets like those RAAF F-18s, USAF F-15 etc. Memorable catch is that of Royal Navy Sea Harriers & Sea Kings. That should be around late eighties if my memories is correct.

Anonymous said...


Then you have the option of living in Tekong which is just beyond the runway of new CAB (East).

According to the master plan, part of the island may be residential by then.

DR.MalthusianApocalypseRantNRamblings said...

This is entirely tied to population issue.

The pressure on housing and infrastructure is telling. Without significant negotiations with neighboring countries (Say a deal for New territory style status for Batam, Bintan), we will max out on land very quickly. Something has to give.

Centralising bases is a result of manpower constraints which will have an impact on dispersal issues in terms of asset risk.

Maybe one way to alleviate the pressure on military infrastructure is to afford for housing offshore of Singapore (which is to some extend happening). Providing a more Singapore (law) friendly environment for this to happen can be achieve with some thought and diplomacy.

The population issue also has an impact on National Service whereby the intake of NS is to shrink from 41k to 35k. This is significant and unlikely to be adequately plugged by current efforts to recruit women (unless NS is introduced to the fairer sex)

In short, Singapore's population ideals whilst theoretically sound is technically flawed in certain details and overall approach.

The type of immigrants we have set our sights on are necessary for economic growth but are also likely to be more allegiance mobile.

Rather, we should adopt a more nuanced approach and allow for some 'lower end' immigration into the country, particularly from close neighbouring states. Lower income entrants to the country are more likely to be grateful for the opportunities provided to them.

Those that are closer to us and can understand our ethos are also more likely to share common bonds and feel a deeper sense of belonging.

As an example, consider the Gurkhas. there are 3000+ serving in Singapore. yet their sons and daughters have to leave Singapore when aged 21.

why not absorb them? The offsprings of a martial race is surely a desired thing to our military?.

The 'meritocratic' (Read higher education biased) immigration policies is too narrow and may not necessary pay dividends by way of long term allegiance.

IMO we should be aiming for 5m mark for Singapore citizens. Why not absorb slightly more citizens if we are aiming for 6.9m?

There are as mentioned in neighboring country for eg. people of similar Southern Indian Stock to many of us who are not entirely satisfied with the opportunities presented to them by Bumi first policy. After all, the Best Singaporeans have often been Malaysians.

Not to presume that they may in any way want to be Singaporean but : Could they be a useful an easier to integrate population brought in in small numbers by education system or otherwise?

Recently as a response to public back lash, the govt has curtailed the number of work permit holders to significant effect to the service sector. Why not increase slightly the number of citizens who will take on some of these jobs by bringing in select immigrants (and their families)?

This will have in the short run and immediate impact on citizen numbers which will relief pressure on current shortfall in military intake. In the longer run, we may see a slight return to a healthier replacement level.

These are questions which need looking at IMO.

The current direction raises many issues which are IMO being swept under the carpet and have ramifications for the social fabric and identity of the country (not to mention in terms of our security structure) .


Anonymous said...

To above, nothing has to give except the size, price and lease of your flat. Singapore citizens can complain but they can never rise up and take what is theirs.

AwangJantan said...

Price of your flat cheaper lah if go and build in Batam/Bintan is what is suggesting.

Can also what? Live in Batam commute to Singapore for work also shiok so long as everything cheaper and got MRT.

Why everything must squeeze? Some more want to increase people but tada tempat. Mana boleh. Sure your price of flat kenah increase lah.

Apa macam?

Actually if Batam special zone with law sensitive to Singapore type, then can set up shop better there. Indonesia take sales tax there lah. Cash cow what. Maybe can set up second Casino.

AwangJantan said...

But to tell you truth, all this talking move airbase, don't move airbase, you scared of who?

Pasal Malaysia?

Because we nearby can hantam ah?

Who else? Lain orang all further got time for you to react.

You talking about about us lah.

Please lah if air base pindar or not, no difference. We want to disturb, is senang lah

You think what? Your drone can see through our utan ah. We hide rockets deep in plantation or jungle, hantam from there, your runways semua habis.Guarantee. I am from Seremban I know.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea with Batam but I don't think it may be within the capability of the current generation of leaders to negotiate something so complex and strategic.

Best to stick to the confines of the 700sq kilometers.

If you want to consider extra-territorial solution, you may as well consider concepts like twinning with Brunei.

but it carries complications of the local politics which we may get dragged into and could be messy.

I don't think there is much issue with moving to Changi as I will explain in your second segment.

Much of it may be to do with the F35B which should make us rather less large runway dependent.

BTW, with regards vulnerability to rocket attack, we may want to consider the sort of asset that the UK and Israel have in the sort of ELINT/SIGINT Bombadier and Gulfstream jets respectively that can spot such 'light ups' from the air.

If we have this capability, we will be able to engage in destroy this sort of menace far better.

I agree with our Malaysian friend above that we may not be taking this sort of danger quite as seriously as we should, although I'm not sure what the relevance to "Seremban" is.

Anonymous said...

Awang, your rockets do not turn in the air. Radar will find them, you only need to look along one line to find the launchers. Astros range is only 50km, is there a lot of hutan within this distance?

How fast can your crews reload them? If the reloads are near the launchers, someone can hit them all together. A guided rocket like Himars can reach out and hit it. At most our air base will be out of action for a few minutes. Each has three runways, you only need half for a fighter to take off.

Anyway whether Indonesia or Malaysia, this difference of distance is insignificant in modern war. Moving the airbase has nothing to do with military needs, and has everything to do with someone's stupid population plan. Changi or Paya Lebar Air Base will take up the same amount of space, but all the low rise residential and industrial areas surrounding Paya Lebar will be targeted for redevelopment. Nowadays Malaysians want to work in Singapore, in future it might be the other way around. If you just bersihkan your government, it surely will happen. Let Singapore be a superpower, no one will care.