Lockheed Martin F-35As of the US Air Force are in Singapore for dissimilar air combat training work with Boeing F-15SGs and F-16s of the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

Eight F-35As from the USAF’s 356th Fighter Squadron are visiting Singapore from 1-7 March to practice basic fighter manoeuvres against the Singaporean assets.

According to Singapore’s defence ministry, the exercises are taking place in international airspace over the “southern reaches of the South China Sea.”

USAF Lt Col Erik Gonsalves, speaking with media at Singapore’s Paya Lebar air base, gives high marks to the RSAF’s pilots and the manoeuvrability of their F-16s.

“The F-35 is not necessarily designed to be a visual-range dogfighter, it’s stealth capabilities are better at a distance,” he says.

“When we get into dogfighting, which is what we are doing here, the F-16 is a really good platform, especially when they’re flown by such talented pilots as the RSAF has.”

The work also involves receiving fuel from the RSAF’s Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports.

Gonsalves says the MRTT has a “more forgiving boom envelope” and “very pristine beautiful new lighting on the bottom, so we can actually see the up-down, forward back direction indicator lights.”

Asked about whether the squadron has practiced Agile Combat Employment, the USAF doctrine that emphasises operating from multiple locations and not large, fixed bases, Gonsalves says that the Singapore deployment is actually “very lean” by historic standards.

The entire deployment comprises 12 pilots and 40 other personnel and is supported by a pair of C-130J tactical transports.

The F-35A’s visit to Singapore follows recent news that the city-state plans to order eight example of the conventional take-off variant, adding to its order for 12 F-35Bs, the short take-off and vertical landing version.

“The bilateral training provides a valuable opportunity for the RSAF personnel to train alongside the [Pacific Air Forces’] F-35A aircrew and ground crew, and learn from other experienced F-35 operators to support our own F-35 acquisition and operationalisation journey,” says Singapore’s ministry of defence.

“This combined training also underscores the excellent and long-standing defence relations between Singapore and the USA.”

Following the Singapore stopover, the F-35As and assets from the RSAF will travel to Thailand for the Cope Tiger 2024 exercise.