tengah air base

Tengah Air Base

A Comprehensive Guide to Tengah Air Base: Home of the RSAF in Western Singapore

Tengah Air Base is a key military airbase located in the western region of Singapore within the Tengah Air Base.

A Comprehensive Guide to Tengah Air Base: Home of the RSAF in Western Singapore

It is a key military airbase located in the western region of Singapore within the Choa Chu Kang area. It serves as a major airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), hosting fighter squadrons, support units and operational commands.

This article provides an in-depth look at Tengah Air Base, its history, layout, facilities, aircraft, units, and operations as the most important airbase within Western Singapore.

Introduction to Tengah Air Base

Tengah Air Base occupies 162 hectares of land along Airport Road in Choa Chu Kang housing estate. It houses several frontline squadrons and support units of the RSAF. Key facts:

- One of RAF's most important airbases

- Location: Along Airport Rd in Choa Chu Kang vicinity

- Home to both fighter and helicopter squadrons

- Houses RSAF HQ Air Defence and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Command

- Extensive operational and maintenance facilities

- Shared civilian-military runway with adjacent Singapore Changi Airport

Tengah Air Base performs a vital role as RSAF’s main western airbase supporting round-the-clock air defence and operations.

History of Tengah Air Base

It was commissioned in 1939 by the British Royal Air Force (RAF). Some key historical milestones:

1939: Completed by RAF as an airfield with two dirt runways

1953: Handover to Singapore government after RAF withdrawal

1971: Came under the jurisdiction of RSAF

1981: New 25-meter-tall control tower commissioned

1995: Declared operational base for F-16 fighters

2011: New airbase terminal building completed

2019: Runway upgrading project begins in phases

From its beginnings as an RAF wartime airfield, it has evolved to be the most strategic RSAF base in Singapore’s western defence.

Key Features and Infrastructure

Let’s examine the key features and infrastructure within Tengah Air Base:


Shared runway with Changi Airport that handles both civilian airliners and military aircraft operations.

Air Traffic Control Tower

25m tall control tower managing air traffic in RSAF's western airspace 24/7.

Aircraft Hangars

Sheltered hangars for parking, maintenance, and repair of frontline aircraft like F-15SG and F-16 fighters.

Airbase Terminal Building

The headquarters building coordinates airbase operations like air defense command, flight operations, and services.

Hardened Aircraft Shelters

Reinforced hangars concealed within earth berms to protect aircraft from attacks.

Helicopter Hangars

Houses utility and attack helicopters like CH-47 Chinooks and AS532 Cougars.

Maintenance Workshops

Facilities for maintenance, repairs, and overhaul work on RSAF aircraft by ground crews.

Simulator Buildings

Houses flight simulators that realistically replicate actual aircraft cockpits for aircrew training.

With its extensive airfield, maintenance, and operations infrastructure, it supports RSAF capabilities in the West zone.

Heritage Assets

It contains several heritage landmarks harking back to its past:

- Old RAF buildings from its establishment in 1939 like the airfield tower.

- Vintage aircraft models displayed like the Hunter, Dakota, Gannet, Skyvan, and others that previously operated from the base.

- Historical photos depicting milestones and operational moments at the airbase over past decades.

- Retained original Royal Air Force Ensign crest from its inception as an RAF facility before RSAF took over.

- Preserved antique airfield equipment like signal lamps, airfield lighting, and old air defense radars.

These heritage assets provide a window into Tengah Air Base's long and illustrious journey as Singapore's western aerodrome from the late 1930s until today.

Frontline and Support Squadrons

It houses a mix of frontline squadrons and support units:

Fighter Squadrons:

- 149 Squadron with F-15SG multi-role fighters

- 142 Squadron with F-16C/D air defense fighters

Helicopter Squadrons:

- 120 Squadron operating CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters

- 123 Squadron operating AS532 Cougar medium-lift helicopters

Support Units:

- Ground-based Air Defence Artillery weapon units

- Airfield Maintenance Squadron

- Field Defence Squadron for base security

- Air Logistics Squadron

- UAV Command

Tengah Air Base collectively provides the infrastructure, units, and capabilities to deliver 24/7 air defense and air combat readiness over Singapore's western skies.

Operational Facilities and Assets

It houses many operational facilities and assets:

- Hardened Aircraft Shelters with reinforced construction to protect aircraft. They are concealed within protective berms and spaced out to minimize damage.

- Operational Readiness Platforms beside runways to quickly marshal fighter aircraft for scramble missions. This minimizes response time.

- Network of protected command, control, and communications infrastructure to coordinate air operations.

- Modern air surveillance and air defense radar systems like I-HAWK and Sense & Warn systems to detect aerial threats.

- Airbase defense assets like the Spyder Surface-to-Air Missile system, assault rifles, machine guns, and armored vehicles to thwart attacks.

- Armories of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon ordnance stored in protected explosive storage bunkers.

- Petrol, Oil, and Lubricants (POL) storage tanks and pipelines for refueling of aircraft fleets.

These critical assets and infrastructure enable it to generate airpower and deliver air operations in western Singapore.

Key Facilities at Tengah Air Base

Let's look at some of the key operational and maintenance facilities:

Flight Simulator Centre

Sophisticated fight simulators replicate actual aircraft cockpits, systems, and instrumentation to allow aircrew training in a realistic but controlled environment.

Aircraft Maintenance Hangars

Enclosed hangars fitted with hoists, tools, and equipment used by ground crews to conduct scheduled servicing, preventive maintenance, and repair work on various aircraft types.

Runway Upgrading Project

With phases spread over 2020-2024, the runway is being extended, strengthened, and fitted with new navigational aids to boost capacity.

Airfreight Terminal

Provides air cargo handling services for the transport of SAF supplies, ammunition, and heavy equipment by RSAF transport aircraft.

Airfield Roads

Key roads dispersed across the airbase allow swift mobility of assets to various dispersal points.

Airbase Fire Station & Crash Response Services

Provides specialized fire and rescue first responders trained in aircraft firefighting and crash rescue procedures to respond to airfield emergencies.

These extensive aviation support facilities enable it to generate and sustain air operations.

Heritage Milestones

Some key heritage milestones associated with Tengah Air Base:

- 1939: Completed by the British Royal Air Force as an airfield with two dirt runways.

- 1942: Occupied by the Japanese army during World War II until 1945.

- 1955: Upgraded to a modern paved runway with flight facilities.

- 1967: First RSAF A-4 Skyhawk squadron formed.

- 1981: A new 25m tall air traffic control tower opened.

- 1995: Declared main operating base for RSAF’s new F-16 squadrons.

- 2018: RSAF50 aerial display held at Tengah to celebrate RSAF's golden jubilee.

From its wartime origins to the present day, it has served as Singapore's mainstay western aerodrome for over 80 years.

Aircraft Operated from Tengah Air Base

As Singapore's frontline airbase, Tengah has hosted various aircraft over its history:

- Spitfire (1957): Singapore’s first-ever military aircraft.

- Hawker Hunter (1958): RSAF's first supersonic jet fighter aircraft.

- A-4 Skyhawk (1967): Singapore’s inaugural locally-based fighter squadron.

- F-5 Freedom Fighter (1970s): Singapore's first combat jets capable of aerial refueling.

- F-16 Fighting Falcon (1998): RSAF’s first modern multi-role fighters.

- F-15SG (2009): RSAF’s most advanced frontline fighters.

- CH-47 Chinook (2012): RSAF’s modern heavy-lift helicopters.

From vintage propeller planes to contemporary supersonic jets, it has been home to successive generations of iconic RSAF aircraft defending Singapore's skies.

Base Upgrading Plans

To strengthen future capabilities, Tengah Air Base will undergo major redevelopment:

- Older squadron facilities will be rebuilt with larger hangars to fit bigger aircraft.

- Advanced fighter training simulators will be introduced.

- Runway will be expanded for larger aircraft operations.

- Autonomous airfield vehicles will be tested to boost ground operations productivity.

- More environmentally friendly systems like solar power and water recycling.

- Built-in growth capacity for additional squadrons and units.

The new Tengah Air Base will be transformed into a next-generation smart airbase purpose-built for Singapore's future defense needs.

Contributions to National Security

For over 80 years, it made significant contributions:

- Provides 24/7 radar coverage and air policing of Singapore's western airspace as a frontline airbase.

- Generates air power for defense and deterrence through fighter squadrons based there.

- Hosted successive generations of RSAF's fighter, utility, and reconnaissance aircraft over the decades.

- Served as a launch base for NDP airshows, aerial homeland security operations, fleet reviews etc.

- A staging ground for RSAF war contingencies, overseas deployments, relief missions etc.

- Training node that honed the skills of thousands of RSAF aircrew, instructors, and technicians during peacetime.

- Provided infrastructure to enable rapid growth of RSAF during buildup years after independence.

Tengah Air Base continues its strategic role guarding western skies as the most established RSAF airbase tasked with frontline air operations.

Live Firing Exercises

Tengah Air Base occasionally conducts live firing exercises to maintain operational readiness:

- Live firing drills involve using actual ammunition to simulate real combat conditions for training.

- Activities include day and night interdiction exercises with fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships.

- Frontline fighter jets practice air-to-ground firing at simulated targets on offshore islands and waters.

- Helicopters like the AH-64 Apache Guardian attack helicopters perform strafing runs firing cannons and rockets.

- Ground-based air defense units also conduct live firing of anti-aircraft guns and missile systems like Mistral and I-HAWK.

- Safety and security protocols are enforced during such drills. Nearby residents are notified prior.

Such live firing drills keep RSAF personnel at Tengah Test Base razor sharp to respond to threats by practicing with actual weapons and conditions.

Airbase Security Features

As an operational military base, Tengah employs extensive security:

- Entry is restricted only to authorized military personnel with security passes. Visitors need prior clearance.

- Patrolling guard teams and watchtowers equipped with night vision and surveillance systems provide 24/7 security.

- Perimeter intrusion detection systems consisting of motion sensors and cameras detect any breaches.

- Security barriers like berms, bollards, fences, and tire shredders deter unauthorized vehicle access.

- Surveillance drones provide aerial monitoring and appraisal of base security.

- On-base soldiers respond armed with assault rifles, machine guns, and tactical vehicles if a security situation arises.

The robust and layered security aims to provide watertight protection of military assets and personnel at the critical operational airbase.

In conclusion, it is integral to Singapore's national security as the most strategically located and well-equipped RSAF airbase responsible for round-the-clock air defense and operations in the western zone.

With its rich heritage from the RAF era to today's RSAF frontline squadrons, it has stood guard over western Singapore for over 80 years. Its extensive infrastructure, facilities, and units enable Tengah to generate formidable air power in defense of the nation.

As a critical node of RSAF capabilities, Tengah Air Base will continue playing a vital role in Singapore's national security into the foreseeable decades ahead. Its redevelopment will strengthen future air force capacities, propelling Tengah Air Base into a new era at the cutting edge of aerospace technology.

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