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Singapore finally opts for F-15T

Boeing moves to final negotiations after Dassault Rafale loses out in contest to supply next-generation fighter

The long-running competition to supply Singapore’s next-generation fighter is finally over, with Boeing’s F-15T Eagle selected over Dassault’s Rafale.

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The French manufacturer was told of its elimination from the contest on 6 September and promptly issued a statement announcing its defeat. Singapore then stated its defence ministry was “now in the process of seeking final clarifications and contract negotiation with Boeing”.

Dassault identified two main reasons for Singapore’s decision: the weakness of the US dollar, which it describes as “a definite handicap for the economic competitiveness of the French offer”, and the negotiating influence of “America’s power and might”.

In a shift from its previous response to South Korea’s selection of the F-15 ahead of the Rafale, Dassault says it will not challenge Singapore’s decision.

Singapore has declined to say how many F-15Ts it will acquire or when deliveries will begin. It would have preferred not to announce the platform’s selection until a firm contract was signed with Boeing, which has declined to comment on the selection. But if a final contract is not agreed, the competition could potentially be reopened and delayed further.

The Singaporean air force has previously outlined an initial requirement for eight to 12 aircraft for delivery from 2008, plus the same number of options. The aircraft will replace ageing McDonnell Douglas A-4SU Skyhawks.

The acquisition could ultimately cover more aircraft, depending on whether Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is delayed further. Based on past procurements – such as of Lockheed’s F-16 – Singapore typically follows initial deals with smaller batch orders.

The Rafale had long been viewed as the outsider in Singapore, which would have been launch customer for the type’s export version. Last month there were fresh indications that an F-15T selection was imminent when the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale.

Dassault is talking up its progress in the Singapore competition, however, saying the Rafale’s involvement in the final contest – ahead of Eurofighter’s Typhoon – shows it is a good export candidate. “The Rafale programme continues and we have other prospects,” says the company.

NICHOLAS IONIDES/SINGAPORE

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