Singapore is preparing to launch a competition to select a new advanced jet trainer (AJT) after it completes its procurement of basic trainers. The new advanced trainers will help prepare Singapore for its future combat fleet, including at least 12 Boeing F-15SGs and, probably, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) chief Maj Gen Lim Kim Choon says a request for information (RFI) for new AJTs will be issued in the second half of 2006 and an invitation to tender (ITT) will be issued in the second half of 2007, specifying deliveries from 2010. Manufacturers expect the ITT will be issued to Aermacchi for the M346, BAE Systems for the Hawk 128 and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the T-50. The Hawk 128 will be on static display at Asian Aerospace 2006, but Aermacchi and KAI decided against bringing their AJT products to the show this year because Singapore is focusing on its basic trainer requirement. They expect the AJT competition will still be in progress by February 2008 at the Changi international air show, which will probably showcase all three AJTs in the flying display.

Singapore now uses a fleet of almost 20 McDonnell Douglas TA-4SU Skyhawks for advanced training, but the number of replacements required could depend on which basic trainer is acquired. Manufacturers say some of the basic trainers under consideration could be used to cover some of the AJT syllabus. But Singapore could also acquire extra AJTs to take over some of the training missions now performed with fighters.

Lim declines to say how many AJTs Singapore requires or how they will be acquired. “The RSAF will conduct a feasibility study based on the RFI responses, which would then allow us to determine if we want to lease or purchase directly from the manufacturer,” he says.

Singapore now conducts advanced jet training in France, but is evaluating basing its new AJT fleet elsewhere. “The tentative plan is to replace the TA4-SUs in France in 2010,” Lim says. “As part of the feasibility study the RSAF is considering the option of continued basing in France, keeping in mind the excellent hospitality and support shown to Singapore by the French government since we began training in Cazaux in 1998.”

Singapore has already decommissioned its locally based fleet of over 50 A-4SUs. Some of these aircraft have been replaced by new Block 52 Lockheed Martin F-16Ds, while the rest will not be replaced until 2008 and 2009, when the 12 F-15SGs Singapore ordered late last year will be delivered.

Boeing declines to provide information on the General Electric F110-129-powered F-15SG, but the aircraft is expected to be a slightly improved version of the F-15K, which Boeing began delivering to South Korea late last year.

“Singapore’s unique F-15SG will be the most advanced F-15 variant equipped with some state-of-the-art avionics and weapons suite to conduct a full spectrum of operations,” Lim says. “This includes the infrared search and track system, integrated electronic warfare suite, coupled with the joint helmet-mounted cueing system and advanced weapons that will allow the F-15SG to dominate the aerial battles to see first and shoot first.”

The RSAF declines to provide additional information on the F-15SG configuration, but the US government has approved the export to Singapore of Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Joint-Stand-Off Weapon and APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array radar. Singapore holds options for a further eight F-15SGs, but Lim declines to say when a decision on potentially acquiring more F-15s will be made.

Manufacturers expect availability of the JSF could ultimately affect the numbers of F-15s Singapore acquires. Singapore signed two years ago as a security co-operation participant (SCP) in the JSF programme, but has not yet decided whether to acquire the new-generation fighter. The RSAF declines to say when such a decision will be made.

“Singapore’s SCP arrangement with the USA in the JSF pro­gram­me provides an early opportunity to assess the JSF’s capabilities,” Lim says. “With insights into the JSF development, Singapore will be able to evaluate whether the JSF meets the RSAF’s long-term operational require­ments for a multi-role fighter.”

In the meantime, the RSAF is focusing on introducing a batch of 20 Block 52 F-16Ds, the first of which was delivered in 2004. Lim says the RSAF is satisfied so far with the new aircraft’s performance, and its improved attack avionics suite has enabled the service “to achieve higher combat effectiveness”.

But there are no plans to acquire more F-16s, with the type having been eliminated in the the last fighter competition. The Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were shortlisted, but were knocked out last year in favour of the F-15T, now known as the F-15SG.

Manufacturers expect Singapore to launch another fighter competition after the AJT procurement begins in about 2008. Singapore is expected to consider the JSF against contenders such as the Saab Gripen. If the T-50 wins the AJT competition, KAI’s proposed F-50 may also be considered.

The Gripen will be on static display at Asian Aerospace 2006, but Gripen International sales director Bob Kemp says Singapore’s Northrop F-5 replacement requirement is too premature for the aircraft to be flying at the air show. “Their current requirement is to replace the trainers. That will be the story of this air show,” Kemp says. “Once they finish the trainers they’ll do the F-5 replacements. Our time will come.”

Singapore also has on order six Sikorsky S-70B shipborne helicopters to be delivered from 2009. The helicopters will be operated by RSAF from a new fleet of naval frigates on anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions. Lim says six helicopters “are sufficient to meet our operational requirements”, although originally the acquisition, which was delayed for several years because of budget constraints until the S-70 was finally selected early last year, was for 12 aircraft.

Budget constraints also have delayed a proposed Lockheed C-130 avionics upgrade, which Lim says the air force is still reviewing. “We are constantly prioritising the various RSAF modernisation programmes and requirements,” he says. “For the C-130 fleet upgrade we are conducting market research and hope to make a decision in the next few years.”

The RSAF is “assessing various options” to replace its North­rop E-2C airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft fleet. Singa­pore is expected to acquire a mix of AEW platforms including UAVs. It has already expressed interest in Northrop’s RQ-4 Global Hawk and has several indigenous UAV projects. “The potential of unmanned warfare is promising and the RSAF is keeping abreast of technological advancements in this area to see how we can achieve cost-effective solutions for some of the mission requirements,” Lim says.


Source: Flight International