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Asia drives defence spending

Defence spending in Asia is expected to rise by up to 6 percent this year. By the end of the decade, Asia is expected to have spent almost US$500 billion to beef up its military power.

SINGAPORE: Defence spending in Asia is expected to rise by up to 6 percent this year.

By the end of the decade, Asia is expected to have spent almost US$500 billion to beef up its military power.

And that is proving to be a boon for the world's biggest arms manufacturer.

On display at the Singapore Airshow are some of the most formidable military aircraft -- from maritime surveillance equipment to the most updated air weaponry -- all to whet the appetite of the Asian customer. 

The F35 is one of the latest fighting machines on display at the airshow. It is touted as a fifth generation fighter, or a stealthier, more streamlined F16. So far, Japan and Australia have already placed their orders.

Apart from having the most modern fighters, there appears to be a need to show military might as territorial tensions simmer.

Mark Burgess, Asia Pacific director of Defence & Space at Honeywell Aerospace, said: "Particularly in Japan and South Korea, we're seeing significant increases (in defence spending) and that's a reflection of the threat environment -- particularly associated with the perpetual threat from North Korea and the drive to continually modernise their armed forces as well.

The latest statistics show the combined defence budget of Britain, France and Germany is projected to reach US$149 billion in 2015.

China alone is forecast to surpass that, and spend almost US$160 billion on defence, up from US$139.2 billion in 2013, according to reports by IHS Jane's, a defence industry consulting and analysis company. 

In the past 3 years, Asian military spending has grown 11.6 percent.

China may be a big part of that, but arms sellers say demand from Southeast Asia is on the rise too.

Richard Kirkland, vice president of corporate international business development at Lockheed Martin, said: "Anything ASEAN has more of an economic impact than the European community right now because of the growth.

"So we have a great deal of interest in Indonesia, as a place that is looking to modernise and expand things like its whole air surveillance activity.

"We've also had great discussions with Vietnam. We've provided Vietnam with two direct communication satellites so that they connect their population together and we're now talking about... maritime surveillance zone... so that they can understand what traffic is coming in and out."

Besides fire power, experts say defence budgets will increasingly be spent on protecting information technology and intelligence surveillance.

Honeywell's Mark Burgess said: "There are markets like Japan, South Korea and Singapore where defence expenditure has been high since they are developed markets and spending will remain high.

"For a number of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, their increasing economic wealth is giving them the capability to spend on defence and to modernise their armed forces and that's driving growth in the less developed markets." 

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