"We will have to look at replacing the E-2C, which has been with us for 14 years. I think the time has come," said Maj Gen Lim in 2004. One option was a system like the LALEE, studied for 3 years by a team under a Prof Lui. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) was described by Lui as "an integrated airborne surveillance and communications system to provide continuous temporal and very large spatial coverage". The good news to taxpayers was that it would "provide a task group operating in the littorals (coastal region) with continuous surveillance from the air at a cost considerably cheaper than operating current-generation surveillance and communications platforms". During the 21 April 2004 presentation to the Unmanned Vehicles Asia Pacific conference in Sydney, Maj Alfred Fox, then director of Mindef's newly established future systems directorate, displayed images of a single fuselage air vehicle with a large, underslung phased-array radar (Flight International, May 2004).
According to Associate Professor Tan of International Studies, University of New South Wales, Australia, Singapore already operates a comparatively large UAV fleet, consisting of about forty Hermes 450 and Searcher UAVs. On top of this, it also acquired four advanced surveillance platforms comprising Gulfstream 550 jets equipped with the Elta conformal EW system which went into service in Israel in 2008 ("East Asia's Military Transformation: The Revolution in Military Affairs and its Problems", Security Challenges, Vol.7, No.3, Spring 2011).
When the four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft were first delivered from 1985-6, our neigbours were not too happy with the intrusive spy in the sky. Goh Chok Tong made more people unhappy when he said the cost of each plane was "only" equivalent to a plate of char kway teow for every man, woman and child in Singapore. This had to be a precursor of the "$600,000 is peanuts" remark made by Mrs Goh during the NKF saga. The Aviation Research Group says the price for one Gulfstream G550 starts at US$59.9 million.
Singapore's defence ministry confirmed the purchase of the four Gulfstream luxury business jets in 2007. DPM Teo Chee Hean, the big spender, proudly announced their operational status in April 2012. The G550 can fly faster, higher, longer and see farther than the E-2C Hawkeye which it replaces. A quick look at the Gulfstream brochure also shows that the configuration can be easily tweaked to rival the accouterments onboard America's Air Force One. Poor Obama, and he thought he had one up over the highest paid political leader in the world.
|Highly customisable layout options for the Elites|