Southeast Asia’s wealthiest country is built like a fortress. Having gained independence in 1965, the city state launched an ambitious program to build an armed forces that would scare its neighbors. Israel played a seminal role in Singapore’s rise and to this day both countries share a unique security partnership.
Thanks to its rigorous National Service, Singapore can harness enough manpower for its military, emergency services, law enforcement, and a gigantic reservist pool. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) might number just 75,000 on paper but it can mobilize nearly a million citizens should a dire national crisis call for it.
Singapore’s GDP hovers in the $300 billion range and its defense budget is kept at an above average percentage, totaling $10 billion in 2017.
Each branch of the SAF is superbly equipped. The army has several hundred armored vehicles, including 196 upgraded Leopard 2SG main battle tanks. The air force flies 62 F-16C/D’s and 40 F-15SG’s. The navy is capable of blue water engagements thanks to its French stealth frigates and Swedish Archer-class submarines.
Singapore’s domestic arms industry is the most advanced in ASEAN thanks to decades of careful planning and investment. State-owned firms like ST Engineering managed to develop indigenous small arms, vehicles, and crew-served weapons during the 1980s, much earlier than the rest. Between the government’s R&D and a thriving private sector for military tech, Singapore is poised to export its wares on a global scale.