The Singaporean ministry of defence has said it will come to a decision on a replacement for its F-16C/D/D+ fighter fleet in the next few months.
Equipping three squadrons at the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)’s Tengah Air Base and the Peace Carvin IV training detachment in Phoenix, Arizona, the fleet of 60 F-16s was delivered between 1998 and 2004. The jets are currently in the midst of a mid-life upgrade by Lockheed Martin that will bring them to a standard on par with the F-16V.
Speaking to media ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day on July 1, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen indicated that the F-16s would face obsolescence beyond 2030 and planning for a replacement will require a lead time of ten years. “Whether it’s Typhoons, F-35s, Sukhois and even now Chinese-made stealth fighters, these are the suspects you have to look at,” he said.
However, it is almost certain that Singapore has already settled on the F-35. Having subscribed to the programme as a Security Cooperative Participant since 2003, it is privy to information that will aid in its planning. Speculation persists of an eventual mixed purchase of conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A and short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B models to suit its unique operational environment and requirements.
It was reported in 2016 that the country was putting on hold plans to purchase a dozen F-35Bs. It was likely that a decision was premature then and that Singapore preferred to wait for a reduction in unit prices, resolution of technical problems as well as securing guarantees on customisations and in-country maintenance and overhaul. Roy Choo