Training and base support are emerging as potentially key discriminatory factors in the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) choice of a next generation fighter aircraft.

The RSAF is working toward selection of a fighter in 2001 to replace its fleets of Northrop F-5s and McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, with the winning type being introduced into service in 2005, say industry sources.

The RSAF is faced with basing and airspace constraints in Singapore itself. It already uses US Air Force facilities at Luke AFB, Arizona, for Lockheed Martin F-16 training, and it is understood to be discussing a move to Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

Aircraft which are under consideration for the RSAF requirement are expected to include a Block 60 derivative of the F-16, the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter EF2000, Boeing's F/A-18E/F and F-15E, and the Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker derivative.

France, reflecting an increasing defence rapprochement between the two states, is offering the RSAF the use of its Cazaux base in southern France for training purposes, with RSAF A-4s to be based there. There have, however, been local objections made in the Cazaux region to increased military air activity there.

Other training and basing options which could form part of bids may include a proposal from Eurofighter for an RSAF training base in Australia.

Under the proposal, the RSAF's training aircraft needs could be fulfilled by the addition of around eight British Aerospace Hawk lead-in fighter aircraft, to be built under licence in Australia to meet Royal Australian Air Force requirements.

Source: Flight International