The market for spy planes and surveillance platforms is buoyant in Southeast Asia, where countries are facing off against China — and each other — in the resource-rich South China Sea, industry insiders at the Singapore Airshow said.

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam have all been seeking information from suppliers, trade sources said, as maritime patrol aircraft and intelligence gathering platforms become more of a priority.

Some of the kit is needed for traditional activities such as counter-piracy, fisheries protection or disaster response, but China's growing assertiveness in the region's seas is looming increasingly large in the thinking of defense planners.