Eurofighter is scheduled shortly to begin making formal presentations on the EF2000 to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), to meet the service's requirement for a Northrop F-5E/F replacement.

Singapore is understood to have requested an EF2000 briefing as part of its preliminary evaluation of candidate next-generation fighters. British Aerospace, which has marketing responsibility for Singapore, has already provided the RSAF with initial unclassified data on the aircraft.

The RSAF's initial study is expected to lead to a request for proposals in 1999, with an initial entry-into-service date provisionally targeted for 2004. Other possible contenders under study include the Boeing F-15E and F/A-18E/F, the Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin Block 60 F-16 and, possibly, the Sukhoi Su-37.

France is striving to sell the Rafale to Singapore, with a senior RSAF officer having flown the fighter. Singapore is also set to take up a French air force offer of a training base near Bordeaux, with a two-year deployment of a McDonnell Douglas A-4S squadron.

The republic is looking for a comprehensive training and support package as part of any future fighter purchase, similar to the arrangements it now enjoys with the USAF. The RSAF maintains an F-16 training squadron at Luke AFB in Arizona, and is expected to deploy a second squadron to Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

The selected fighter is intended to replace the air force's 49 F-5s, which are in the middle of an upgrade programme, and the remaining A-4S Skyhawks. The bulk of the RSAF's older A-4s will be replaced by 22 new Block 52 F-16Cs and 20 two-seat Ds now on order for delivery from April 1998.

Elsewhere, the Royal Thai Air Force is considering a range of cost-cutting and refinancing options to keep its $392 million purchase of eight Boeing F/A-18C/Ds on track. The project is facing a major shortfall in funding following the recent plunge in the value of the baht.

Thailand signed a contract for four F-18Cs and four two-seat Ds in US dollars, but its approved acquisition budget was in baht. Since concluding the deal, the baht has fallen in value from 25 to the dollar, to around 40. Remedial options include deferring parts of the fighter package or diverting funding from other US foreign-military-sales programmes.

Source: Flight International