Singapore has become the first non-NATO country cleared to receive the US-developed Link 16 tactical datalink. Industry sources say that the US Navy pushed through the approval, citing the need for interoperability with the USA's major ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore plans to acquire datalink terminals for its fighters and Northrop Grumman E-2CHawkeye airborne early warning aircraft. The USA, however, is facing competition from Israel, which is offering a different datalink. Bids have already been received, with the US offering Link 16 terminals produced by Rockwell Collins and GEC-Marconi.

The Israeli solution is cheaper, but requires a "gateway" to provide interoperability with US forces, which sources are sceptical that Israel can deliver because it has never been cleared to receive information on the TADIL-J waveform used for Link 16.

Singapore has been offered Class 2 datalink terminals for its E-2Cs, identical to those in US Navy Hawkeyes, but combat aircraft would be fitted with a smaller, lighter and cheaper fighter datalink (FDL) terminal under development by Collins/GEC joint company Datalink Solutions. An initial contract for 50 FDL terminals to equip US Air Force Boeing F-15s is expected by April.

Source: Flight International