04 Agustus 2016
The RSAF currently operates late-model Lockheed Martin F-16C/D and Boeing F-15SG multirole combat aircraft. Upgrades to the F-16s are expected to keep the fleet viable until the 2030 timeframe. (photo : jensenchua)
While Singapore continues to remain tight lipped about its next-generation combat aircraft programme it is widely believed that an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter buy is a matter of not if, but when for the Southeast Asian country. Kelvin Wong reports on the latest perspectives from the Singapore government and Lockheed Martin.
With a stated interest of acquiring the next-generation of combat aircraft for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) by 2030, the Southeast Asian island state of Singapore is widely expected by analysts and defence watchers to be an eventual customer for Lockheed Martin's fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
F-35 and F-16 fighter (photo : Lockheed Martin)
The densely populated island is only 719.1 km² in size, with limited manpower resources for defence and no strategic depth to manoeuvre in the advent of conflict. Cognisant of the growing spectrum of operations that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) must undertake in an increasingly uncertain security environment vis-à-vis its own resource constraints, the country embarked on a third-generation (3G) SAF transformation in 2004 under which it is moulding its three services into an advanced, networked force. Underpinning this effort is the integrated knowledge-based command and control (IKC2) concept, where networked forces are augmented with decision support systems that enable commanders and personnel to exploit information more quickly and effectively.
For the RSAF this ongoing effort has resulted in the introduction of improved C4ISR platforms such as four Gulfstream G550 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft - which replaced the service's Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes - and the IAI Heron 1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) to support ISR and target acquisition operations.
Singapore also operates some of the most advanced fourth-generation combat aircraft in the world. The bulk of its fleet comprises 20 Lockheed Martin F-16C and 40 F-16D Block 52/52+ multirole combat aircraft acquired in the 1990s and believed to be optimised with Israeli-built electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems, with the D variants optimised for the electronic warfare (EW) role.