Singapore Defence report: defence spending will amount to US$11.4bn, or 6% of GDP, in 2009

August 25, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Defence and Security Report Q3 2009 – a new market research report on

Singapore, with its small population base, has concentrated spending on sophisticated and superior weapons systems. As a consequence, it has one of the largest defence budgets in the Asia Pacific region – over 4% of GDP. It has maintained high levels of spending despite being the first Asian economy to slip into recession, which is expected to worsen over 2009. The principal recent development affecting the future of Singapore’s defence spending is the recent rapid deterioration in economic conditions.


Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean has previously announced that defence spending will amount to US$11.4bn, or 6% of GDP, in 2009. As a percentage of GDP, this amounts to one of the biggest defence budgets in recent history. Teo stressed the importance of maintaining military spending, noting that threats do not diminish but, rather, often emerge during testing economic times, owing to increased social and political frictions. He noted several factors that had enabled Singapore to build up its defence capability over time: careful spending; sourcing and upgrading second-hand equipment; an ongoing maintenance regime; and investment into research and development.

In February 2009, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) announced it will participate in a US-led task force in the Gulf of Aden designed to target pirates operating in the Gulf and adjacent waterways. Singapore will supply a landing ship tank, two helicopters and two-hundred personnel. Joining an international flotilla comprising some forty-five warships from Europe, China and Malaysia, the SAF deployment will help to escort vessels traversing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Gulf.

Teo said on June 3 2009 that Singapore was prepared to deploy a weapon locating radar (WLR) team to central Afghanistan, according to local media. The WLR team will be deployed to Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, and will provide early warning of rocket attacks and enhance force protection measures of the International Security Assistance Force personnel deployed in the base there.

Teo said this was in view of increased rocket attacks in Afghanistan, adding that multinational peace support initiatives will continue to be an important aspect of the SAF operations.

Speaking at an overseas medal presentation ceremony, he said that if the deployment of the radar is considered useful, the WLR detachment can be deployed for between nine and 12 months from the latter part of this year, according to the report.

Singapore hosted the annual Asia Security Summit, organised by the London International Institute for Strategic Studies from May 29-31, bringing together about 22 ministerial-level guests, along with parliamentarians, military leaders and security experts from more than 27 countries and regions for discussions on regional security issues and defence cooperation.

Teo told the forum that military transparency plays a crucial role in avoiding misunderstandings and increasing trust and confidence for the Asia-Pacific. Military transparency, he said, ‘is not an end in itself but a means to peace and stability’, adding it needs to operate at three levels, namely disclosure armaments and arsenals, statements of strategic intent, cooperative and inclusive action.

Singapore and Australia signed the new Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) at the summit. The new MOA allows the SAF to continue training at the SWBTA until 2019. The vast and challenging terrain at the SWBTA enables the SAF to ensure its operational readiness through tough and realistic training.

This quarter, we have introduced a significant new aspect to BMI´s Defence reports, which is the City Terrorism Rating (CTR). This assesses the risk of a terrorist attack. The CTR takes into account the overall BMI Terrorism Rating for the country in question. It also incorporates the ‘prevalence’ of terrorism, which recognises the frequency of attacks, and whether the city is a target for terrorists. The CTR also recognises the ‘threat’ of terrorism in terms of the likely numbers of victims and the ability of groups to launch sustained campaigns.

These City-Specific Ratings are created via an integration of the state-wide threat, with an evaluation of the city-specific characteristics and level of activity.