While major announcements have been scarce, in terms of aircraft it is the defense sector that has dominated the static display at the 2020 Singapore Airshow, as well as thrilling crowds in the daily flying displays. A rich abundance of the latest high-tech machinery is on show, including a noisy and impressive demonstration by the U.S. Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor, the undisputed king of air dominance.
However, Singaporean eyes have mainly been trained on the F-22’s stablemate, the F-35B being presented by the U.S. Marine Corps. The flying routine of the stealthy fighter that Singapore has just ordered includes a demonstration of the hovering capability that allows it to operate from short strips and from vessels at sea.
While it waits for the F-35, the RSAF relies on the F-15 and F-16 for tactical airpower, both types being equipped to a very high standard, and on show to the public as part of the RSAF’s impressive presence. The F-15’s power is also displayed to the maximum in an energetic flying routine.
China, too, is showing off modern hardware in the flying display, with the PLAAF’s Ba Yi aerobatic team running through a demonstration of precision formation flying with the Chengdu J-10 fighter, which entered service in 2006.
Military aircraft in the static include a show debut for Singapore’s latest military type, the Airbus A330 MRTT that is based at Changi. The sizeable U.S. Department of Defense contingent includes a C-17A airlifter from Hawaii, Air Force MQ-9A Reaper drone, and a Navy P-8A Poseidon.
Very welcome additions to the static display come from fellow Southeast Asian air arms. Malaysia has dispatched an A400M transport and Sukhoi Su-30MKM multi-role fighter to the show, the latter with a rarely seen weapons fit with Russian-supplied missiles.
While discussion focuses on the latest fighter types, the two F-5TH Super Tigris fighters from Thailand show that an old airframe can still be relevant in today’s world. The 40-year old airframes have recently gone through a major upgrade with modern systems that should see them through into the next decade, at which point the original Northrop F-5 design will be celebrating its 70th anniversary of service.