The Far East Air Force was charged with the air defense of British possessions beyond India (Australia was a separate entity): Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, Borneo. The goal of British defense policy in the Far East was the defense of the naval base in Singapore, where the British would send a battle fleet in time of war. This was expanded to include all of Malaya, and to help the small number of ground troops cover the large about of ground, air units were added. The plan entailed some 339 aircraft (local commanders had asked for 550).
Neither of these numbers were approached, and all of the aircraft were second-line.
In December, 1941, the British Far East was guarded by 233 aircraft in 13 squadrons:
- 4 sqdn Bristol Blenheim lt bombers (1 sqdn IVF model)
- 2 sqdn Lockheed Hudson lt bombers
- 2 sqdn Vickers Vildebeest torpedo bombers (biplanes)
- 1 sqdn Catalina seaplanes
- 4 sqdn Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo fighters
- 1 in Mingaladon (Rangoon), Burma
- No. 243 & 48 Sqdns in Kallang, Malaya (outside Singapore)
- No. 21 sqdn. at Sungei Patani
- No. 453 sq. at Sembawang
Add to this a small Australian air contingent moved to Malaya once the Japanese attacks began consisting of
- 2 sqdn of Lockheed Hudson lt bombers
- 2 sqdn Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo fighters
In early 1942, the Australians added two more squadrons of Hudsons: 1 to Timor and 1 to Ambon.
None of these fared very well against the Japanese. However, as American aid began to reach Britain and the Battle of Britain eased off, Britain could afford to send more aircraft. By September, 1942, British air strength was up to 25 sqdns (including those based in India).
Pilot Quality: Average