Sunday, October 4, 2009

Singapore Interested in F-35?

Defense News


Singapore Interested in F-35?


TAIPEI - Singapore is considering buying 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters, according to a July 7 Reuters report that quoted U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Charles Davis, F-35 program executive officer.

Singapore is the only Asian country to participate in the F-35 program. It joined the program's System Design and Development Phase as a Security Cooperation Participant (SCP) in 2003.

However, the Singapore Ministry of Defense has declined to comment on the issue, and there appears to be no pressing requirement for fifth-generation fighters.

"They are invested in the F-35 program, but haven't made a decision one way or another," said a defense source in Singapore. 100 F-35s also appears to be excessive given Singapore's past fighter requirements and its small budget. "Additionally, those numbers don't seem realistic."

There have been discussions about replacing 35 F-5 Tigers with F-35s within 10 years, but Singapore is at the bottom of a long list of customers that includes the United States, as principal, and eight partner nations that have made financial commitments to the program - Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.

In February, the Singapore Air Force chief, Maj. Gen. Ng Chee Khern, acknowledged Air Force interest in the F-35.

Singapore is a "security cooperation participant in the [F-35] program," Ng said. "We are being briefed on the capabilities as they are developed. We are keeping a close watch on the program. No procurement decisions are needed as of now, but it's a program that we are following up on very closely."

Singapore's neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia, have a few fighter squadrons with a mix of U.S. and Russian fighters, including F-5s, F-16s, Su-27s and Su-30s. Neither nation appears to be a threat to Singapore.

In October, Singapore exercised an option to buy 12 more Boeing F-15SG fighters, with delivery scheduled for 2010. Under the original 2005 contract, Singapore bought 12 F-15SGs to replace A-4 Skyhawks. Excluding the new F-15s, Singapore has about 95 fighters: 60 F-16s and 35 F-5s.

Sixteen Singapore Air Force pilots arrived at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., in early July for a one-year F-15 flight training program given by the 4th Fighter Wing's 333rd Fighter Squadron. After the program, they will go to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, to stand up their squadron.

Singapore has had problems with securing airspace to train and has outsourced pilot training to Australia, France and the United States. The decision has also cut costs related to maintaining and operating training aircraft in Singapore.