RAF Tengah was opened in 1939. Tengah airfield was the target of carpet bombing when 17 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, 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 Sembawang Air Base 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, Tengah was used to house Avro Lincolns of the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force and Bristol Brigands of No 84 Squadron RAF which performed bombing sorties on communist terrorist bases/hideouts of the Malayan Communist Party deep in the jungles of Peninsular Malaysia. In 1952 No 45 Squadron was equipped with DH Hornets and re-equipped with DH Venoms in 1955 at RAF Butterworth when No 45 Squadron was amalgamated with No 33 Squadron] T.11's of 60 Squadron, joined by 14 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. In 1958 they were joined by 45 Squadron and No. 75 Squadron RNZAF, both equipped with English Electric Canberra B.2. The RAAF retained their Lincolns, with 1 Squadron, until the end of the emergency.
During the period of Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation, the RAF deployed 74 Squadron with its English Electric Lightning F.6 followed by 20 Squadron with its Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft in addition to the Gloster Javelins of 60 Squadron and 64 Squadron, to the airfield to help upgrade the air defence of Singapore and Peninsula Malaysia against infrequent air incursions from the MiG-21s and P-51 Mustangs of the Indonesian Air Force.