Singapore has a requirement for six airborne tankers to replace its ageing Boeing KC-135s, but appears to be in only the early stages of examining its alternatives, with a formal request for information yet to be released.
Industry observers have noted that the Singapore air force's current tankers are expensive to operate and maintain, and also insufficient to fully support its fleet of Boeing F-15SG and Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters. This has led to speculation that Singapore's next major aircraft acquisition will be in the tanker area.
Possible candidates for the requirement are the Boeing KC-46A - which is being acquired by the US Air Force - and the Airbus Military A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT), which is operated regionally by Australia.
Of the two aircraft, air force officials are probably more familiar with the A330 MRTT. A Royal Australian Air Force example was on static display at December's LIMA air show in Malaysia, while one of the UK Royal Air Force's new A330 Voyagers attended the Singapore Airshow earlier this month.
At the LIMA show a Singaporean contingent visited the aircraft and had a number of enquiries for the Australian crew.
Aside from its ability to refuel fighters, the A330 MRTT's large passenger compartment and freight capacity could be particularly useful to Singapore. The nation lacks the land to conduct major military exercises, and often sends detachments of personnel and equipment on training deployments as far afield as Australia, Brunei, Taiwan and the USA.
Singapore has also participated in long-distance coalition operations in Afghanistan and the Gulf of Aden region.
Australia's locally designated KC-30A can carry 270 passengers in a cabin virtually identical to that found on Qantas A330s, plus 40 tonnes of cargo.