Procurement: November 22, 2003

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There are increasing signs that the competition to sell 24 new fighters, worth an estimated $2 billion, to Singapore is starting to heat up. Two of the three manufacturers, Eurofighter and Dassault, have been running local marketing campaigns to educate the Singaporean public on their respective warplanes. This has included gift pages and display pavilions at a recent Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House, as well as huge ads on the sides of double-decker public busses. More recently, both companies, through their respective governments, have offered a number of incentives to the Singapore government to purchase their aircraft.

The French government, eager to sell the Dassault Rafale, have offered Singapore the chance to jointly develop a new radar system for the Rafale if it's chosen. This is a significant technology carrot for Singapore, as it will allow its already advanced defense industry to participate in cutting edge aircraft avionics technology. France has also offered increased use of its training areas and facilities, as the RSAF already has 18 A4SU Super Skyhawks based in the South of France for Lead in Fighter Training.

In a recent visit to Singapore, the British Minister for Procurement hinted that Britain would have extend the use of RAF training and basing facilities to Singapore in the event that the Eurofighter Typhoon was selected. While no RSAF pilot has been trained in England in recent years, the initial cadre of Singaporean fighter pilots were British trained, flying Hawker Hunters and Strikemasters, and there is therefore an institutional link between the RSAF and the RAF, reinforced annually by joint military exercises as part of the Five Power Defence Agreement (FPDA). These exercises have sometimes involved RAF fighter aircraft making the long flight to South East Asia.

British officials have also in the past offered the RSAF full access to all of the Typhoon's capabilities, including the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile. The Meteor, scheduled for service in Europe in 2010, is a Next Generation active guidance missile. Its ramjet propulsion gives it a range of in excess of 100km at a speed of Mach 4, almost three times further than the current AMRAAM operated by the RSAF on its F16s.


The third contender in this competition, Boeing with its F-15T, has not yet announced an incentives program. The sale of 24 fighter aircraft may not seem very significant to many, but this competition has been keenly watched by many defense analysts for a number of reasons. Apart from the potential for follow on sales to the RSAF for a total of 50+ aircraft, winning the competition would give both Eurofighter and Dassault their first non-European sales. This is especially so for Dassault, which has yet to sell the Rafale outside France. The RSAF is generally regarded as a high quality air force, and its choice of a new aircraft will more than likely influence the decisions of other air forces throughout the world. -- Shawn Chung


 


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