RAF Tengah was commissioned in 1939. Tengah airfield was the target of Carpet bombing when seventeen Japanese navy bombers conducted the First air raid on Singapore, shortly after the Battle of Malaya began. It was also the first airfield to be captured when Japanese forces invaded Singapore.
After the Japanese capture of Singapore, RAF Tengah came under the control of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force while the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service took over the other two RAF stations of RAF Sembawang and RAF Seletar as Singapore was split into north-south sphere of control. This effectively ensured that the Japanese Army took control of the south, including the administrative hub and population center of Singapore City, while the Japanese Navy took command of the north, which included the Royal Navy dockyard at Sembawang.
During the Malayan Emergency, it housed Avro Lincolns of the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force which performed bombing missions on communist guerrillas. In 1954 the Royal Air Force was re-equipped with Venom FB4’s and Vampire T11’s of 60 Squadron and was joined by 14 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. In 1958 they were joined by 45 Squadron RAF and 75 Squadron RNZAF, with Canberra B.2. The Royal Australian Air Force retained their Lincolns with No 1(B) Bomber squadron until the end of the emergency.
During the period of Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, the RAF deployed 74 Squadron with its English Electric Lightning F6s followed by 20 Squadron and its Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft to the air base to help bolster the air defense of Singapore and Peninsula Malaysia against air incursions from P-51 Mustangs of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU). In support of this, the base was also used by No. 15 Squadron RAF as a dispersal to rotate its Handley Page Victor B.1A bombers and crews with those based at RAF Butterworth, Malaysia, until the end of the Confrontation.