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Fighter improvements follow Singapore defeat


Following the selection of the Boeing F-15SG by Singapore’s defence ministry, the unsuccessful contenders have both made attempts to address the issues that counted against them during the Singaporean evaluation.

The Dassault Rafale was evaluated immediately after the last Asian Aerospace show and suffered poor serviceability, so that plans for Singaporean pilots to fly the (reportedly radarless) example of the single-seater were abandoned, while the two-seater lacked the standard of radar that was being offered, necessitating the deployment of a Dassault Mirage 2000 to demonstrate the radar and avionics.

Although the passive electronically scanned array (PESA) RBE2 radar offers many advantages, its range was inadequate, and to remedy this France is reviewing its 2004 order for 59 Rafales, and is likely to reduce this to 51 aircraft "for the same overall cost", with the sacrifice of eight to 12 aircraft paying for radar development work.

There may also have been concerns as to whether the planned timescale for the integration of the Meteor missile on the Rafale was sufficiently robust, but in September 2005 Dassault flew an aircraft from the carrier Charles de Gaulle with a full load of dummy Meteor rounds.

For Eurofighter’s Typhoon, the problem was different. It has been widely acknowledged that the aircraft performed well in Singapore’s evaluations, with performance, agility and radar performance coming in for particular praise. The Typhoon also demonstrated impeccable serviceability during the evaluation, and was able to demonstrate everything that the Republic of Singapore Air Force wanted to see, including supercruise, when its competitors could not.

The aircraft was able to climb to operating altitude without making a tortuous series of turns to avoid Malaysian airspace, on one occasion blasting off from Paya Lebar and flying to 26,000ft (7,930m) before reaching the airfield boundary.

Typhoon’s problem was that BAE Systems put in what insiders called "a shambolic performance" during the early part of the bidding process, and that the Singaporeans were concerned about delivery timescales and the inability of the Eurofighter consortium to define the Tranche 2 capability package, putting Singapore’s required air-to-ground capabilities in doubt.

Integration of an initial air-to-ground capability is now making rapid progress, however, and like Dassault, Eurofighter has flown captive Meteor test rounds under Typhoon.

The Eurofighter consortium’s hard work seems to have born fruit, with a credibility-enhancing memorandum of understanding for 72 aircraft signed between the UK government and Saudi Arabia, and with Japan showing serious interest in the aircraft to meet its FX requirement.

Industry insiders suggest that Eurofighter are better placed to provide Japan with the degree of technology transfer, local assembly and local modification/upgrade and weapons integration that the Japanese are likely to require.
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