Need for fighters and naval helicopters mean new trainers and C-130 upgrade must wait

Singapore has put on hold an Aermacchi S211 trainer replacement and Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules upgrade as new fighters and naval helicopters consume the defence budget.

Too many requirements are competing for a defence budget that may increase less than expected because of a revenue shortfall created by the SARS outbreak.

Singapore also has requirements for airborne early warning aircraft and unmanned air vehicles that could leapfrog long-standing C-130 and trainer requirements.

Singapore is considering privately operated basic training, and manufacturers including Embraer, Korea Aerospace Industries and Pilatus have provided information.

Singapore was close to awarding a cockpit upgrade contract for its 10 C-130C/Hs to Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) two years ago. Derco Aerospace was to supply new auxiliary power units and environmental control systems, but manufacturers - including BAE Systems, Elbit Systems, Israel Aircraft Industries, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon - have been discussing partnerships with ST Aero (Flight International, 1-7 July).

Budget constraints also threaten to affect planned fighter and helicopter procurements. Singapore is expected to ask for best and final proposals this month from three naval helicopter manufacturers and to downselect by mid-September three of the six competing fighter manufacturers.

The Eurocopter AS532C Cougar, NH Industries NH90 and Sikorsky S-70 helicopters are being evaluated, with a selection expected late this year and contract likely next February. Singapore is expected to seek six to eight helicopters with deliveries from around 2007.

A contract for 10 fighters, plus 10 options, is scheduled for mid-2004, with deliveries near the end of the decade. The Boeing F-15, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon are expected to be shortlisted, with the Boeing F/A-18, Dassault Rafale and Sukhoi Su-35 being eliminated.

Source: Flight International