The short-range version of the Spyder missile unit can carry four Python-5 or Derby surface-to-air missiles in any combination. Photo: Handout

Singapore now has a new, fully operational surface-to-air defense system and ground-based short to medium range mobile air defense trucks, with the systems up-and-running earlier this week.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force deployed the surface-to-air Python-5 and Derby (Spyder) system, which can respond fast and with great precision to aircraft and munition threats.

The system, bought from the Haifa, Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has been hailed by the Singapore military as an improvement on the UK-designed Rapier missiles – the nation had 12 launchers – as it is capable of intercepting not only invading aircraft like assault helicopters, but also drones and precision-guided munitions.

This capability widens the spectrum of threats the city-state’s air defenses can tackle.

The surface-to-air Python and Derby short range system. Photo: Handout

An all-weather system equipped with advanced infra-red and radar-guided missiles, the Spyder is fitted atop several types of trucks as well as transporter erector launchers and can intercept aerial threats at more than twice the range and three times the altitude of the Rapier missiles, while engaging multiple targets at the same time.

The new equipment is part of the enhanced Island Air Defense system, an island-wide network that brings together sensors, weapon systems, command and control elements and decision-making tools to further beef up air defense, the nation’s defense ministry said.

“As a small island state, Singapore has no strategic depth and even the smallest error could mean an airborne attack could happen within a few minutes,” said Senior Minister of State for Defense Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman at the activation ceremony on Tuesday.

The Python-5 is now the most capable air-to-air missile in Singapore’s inventory and one of the most advanced of its category worldwide. It can first scan a target area for hostile aircraft with its electro-optical infrared homing seeker and is capable of “lock-on after launch” and has full-sphere/all-direction – including rearward – attack ability. Its hit range is more than 20 kilometers at a top speed of Mach 4.

The Python-5 was first used in combat during the 2006 Lebanon War by F-16 Fighting Falcons to destroy two Iranian-made Ababil UAVs used by Hezbollah. The highly maneuverable low-level and quick-reaction system only requires a four-man crew to operate and deploy.

Members of the Singaporean military have undergone extensive training to operate and maintain the system and have also validated the system’s capabilities in local and overseas exercises.

In 2008, the Lion City bought two batteries of the system along with 75 Python-5 and 75 Derby missiles, all delivered during 2011 and 2012.

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