Major General Ng Chee Khern, chief of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, sent me an invitation to interview him when he came to Washington DC this week.
As the head of one of the most sophisticated — and secretive — air forces in the world, I was very glad to accept the offer.
I met General Ng in a meeting room at the Wardman Park Hotel at the end of a long day of the AFA convention. Dressed in civilian clothes, I found him surprisingly youthful, thoughtful and open to answer any question I asked.
You can read my full article in next week’s Flight International magazine. But here are some notes from the interview. I know it’s not exactly in proper journalistic narrative style, but I hope some of you find it useful.
– The Singapore Air Force has a requirement to replace F-5s by 2015.
– The choice is between replacing the F-5s with a follow-on batch of F-15s or a new batch of F-35s
– The US government will deliver the final configuration for the proposed Singapore AF F-35 early next year.
– Singapore will study whether the final configuration meets its requirements or whether the F-15 would be more suitable
– The ability to operate and to modify the F-35 with some degree of national sovereignty is a major consideration
– I mentioned that Boeing had briefed reporters earlier that morning that Singapore is considered a “business opportunity” for selling more C-17s
– Ng said there is “not a whole lot” of interest in the C-17
– Right now the C-130 is meeting its needs; the A400m and JCA will still be available in 10-15 years when the C-130 would be replaced
– RFI has been released for advanced trainer
– Singapore has already evaluated the 346 and T-50. An evaluation team will be sent to the UK in October to look at the Hawk.
– The air force will shortlist to two aircraft and issue an RFP in early 2009
– Major difference with Korea’s requirement: Singapore wants synthetic electronic systems such as radar and electronic warfare, as opposed to the actual systems
– The aircraft will be used almost exclusively as trainers. No operational role is expected.
– Singapore needs to replace or mid-life update Fokker 50 maritime patrol fleet by 2015
– Unmanned systems are the likely replacement candidate, with the US Navy’s BAMS selection a major interest
– Singapore received a briefing on Global Hawk in 2006; still awaiting clearance from US government for export, but no progress made so far.
– Boeing’s manned/unmanned G550 “might” meet the requirement