THE US DEPARTMENT of State is being pressed, by the Pentagon and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) to approve the sale of two converted DC-10-30 tankers to Singapore, to support its fleet of Lockheed F-16 fighters.

The Singapore air force has a requirement for up to three tanker aircraft, fitted with booms to refuel its growing number of F-16s on overseas deployments and exercises. It also intends to use the aircraft as transports and chartered commercial freighters, to maximise their use when not employed as tankers.

Singapore operates four elderly Lockheed C-130Bs and a single C-130H, fitted with under-wing hose-and-drogue pods to refuel Northrop F-5E/Fs and MDC A-4S Skyhawks. The F-16, however, is not compatible with probe-and-drogue operations and requires a boom for aerial refueling.

The conversion being offered to Singapore is similar to the "KDC-10" modifications being made to two DC-10-30s for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Work would include fitting a boom, two under-wing pods and a side cargo door and reinforcing the deck.

MDC faces competition from Airbus Industrie, which is offering a multi-role tanker/transport version of the A310, and a General Electric proposal to supply surplus Boeing KC-135s re-engine with CFM56 turbofans.

Singapore initially considered converting three Singapore Airlines (SIA) A310s into tanker/ transports, as part of a proposed joint programme with Canada, France and Spain. The other three countries have since dropped the idea, leaving Singapore to pursue the conversion alone.

Malaysia, in the meantime, is understood to be close to concluding a contract with Lockheed Aeronautical Systems for the supply of Flight Refueling (FR)-built equipment to convert two C-130 transports into tanker aircraft.

The deal being negotiated is understood to involve the supply of two FR Mk32B probe-and-drogue air-refueling pods, part of a deal estimated to be worth around $16 million.

The two aircraft would be converted in Malaysia, by local maintenance and overhaul company Airod, in which Lockheed holds a 30% stake. The system is removable at short notice if the aircraft should be needed for the transport role.

The Malaysian air force has had a long-standing requirement for an air-to-air refueling capability to support aircraft deployments over the South China Sea.

Malaysia has ordered eight MDC F-18D strike aircraft, which will be supplied with in-flight refueling probes. The country has also ordered 18 Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters and reportedly asked for the aircraft to be similarly equipped.

Source: Flight International