The Singapore government has narrowed down the choice of its Next-generation Fighter Requirement (NFR) for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RiSAF) from 6 to 3. The 3 finalists are the Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoon, the Boeing F-15T Strike Eagle and the Dassault Rafale. Losing contenders were the F-16 Block 60 Fighting Falcon, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and the Sukhoi SU-30.
The three finalists will provide aircraft for a competitive fly-off and evaluation that will take place after next year's Asian Aerospace . The contract is for 20 to 24 aircraft to replace Singapore's A4-SU Super Skyhawk, with initial deliveries from 2005-2007.
Considering that RiSAF currently has over 60+ Skyhawks , follow on orders are eagerly anticipated. Although Singapore is a development partner in the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) program, JSF's in-service date, around 2011+, is considered too long a wait for a Skyhawk replacement, as the Skyhawk is scheduled to start retiring in 2005. F-35 will most likely be the replacement for the RiSAF's 50+ F-5S Tiger II fighters, which are scheduled to retire early next decade.
Interestingly, all three aircraft selected are far more capable than the F-35, with twin engines, greater weapons load, range and capabilities, especially in the role of Air Superiority. With Singapore's limited local air-space and sophisticated local aerospace industry, training arrangements and technology transfers will be a major factor in the winning bid, with Eurofighter's BAE representative stating at last year's Asian Aerospace that their bid will include the 'full works', including Meteor BVR missiles, and most probably will include Eurofighter consortium training facilities as well. Singapore currently has two training squadrons of F-16s in the US and 18 Super Skyhawks for Lead In Fighter Training in France, as well as basic and jet Flight Training Schools in Australia.
The inclusion of the F-15T Strike Eagle is interesting, as it is considered to be at the end of it's development cycle. Its also heavier and less maneuverable than the other two finalists. There is also an opinion amongst defense analysts that Singapore may seek some diversification in airframes and not 'buy American', as it's current fleet of strike aircraft are all from America, and Singapore has in the past suffered from some restrictions in military technology transfer, such as source codes for F-16 software.
Of the losing three bids: even thought Singapore currently operates and has on order almost 70 F-16s, including a squadron of 'Long Spine' F-16D Block 52 for SEAD and interdiction, the F-16S Block 60 was obviously the least capable aircraft of the 6 contenders, being the only single engined candidate, and is also nearing the end of its development life.
The non selection of the SU-30 and F/A-18E/F may primarily be due other regional nations selecting them. The SU-27/SU-30 is now in service with China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, and is on order for Malaysia. Malaysia has also delayed an order for 8 F/A-18E/F due to economic constraints. -- Shawn Chung