SAF looking into S$3b deal to upgrade F-16s

SINGAPORE: The Government is in discussions with the United States over a proposed US$2.43 billion (S$3.09 billion) deal to upgrade its ageing F-16 fighter jets, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on Wednesday.

The agency is required by US law to put up a notice of any potential arm sales to foreign countries.

In a news release posted on its website, the DSCA said it had informed the US Congress on Monday of the planned sale that would involve new radar, navigation systems, missiles and other advanced equipment.

Under the deal to upgrade 60 of Singapore's F-16 fighter jets, the aircraft will be equipped with, for example, Sensor Fuzed Weapons and Guided Bomb Units, as well as the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems, which will project a display onto a pilot's helmet visor, allowing him to aim sensors and weapons at where he is looking.

DSCA said the proposed sale will contribute to US' foreign policy and national security by increasing Singapore's ability to contribute to regional security.

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"(It) will improve the security of a strategic partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region," the agency added.

"The proposed upgrade will improve both the capabilities and the reliability of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) ageing fleet of F-16s."

Responding to media queries, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Director of Public Affairs Kenneth Liow said: "The F-16s have served the Singapore Armed Forces well and remain the backbone of our fighter fleet. The older F-16s, some of which have been in service for more than 15 years, require an upgrade to extend their lifespan."

He reiterated that the notification by the DSCA to the US Congress was "for the possible sale of military equipment and not a formal contract of purchase".

Colonel Liow said: "Programme negotiations are still ongoing, and MINDEF will ensure all our operational requirements are fulfilled before committing to the upgrade programme."

Defence watcher David Boey said the estimated value of the proposed deal could make it the "most ambitious warplane mid-life upgrade ever" by MINDEF.

Mr Boey, a blogger on defence issues and member of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, said the RSAF is known to have about 500 different ways to equip its F-16s for combat missions.

"The mid-life upgrade is due to expand this repertoire even further, should MINDEF or SAF adopt the US' proposal to enable upgraded F-16s to carry CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons, which is a smart munition optimised to hunt and kill armoured targets such as tanks and armoured rocket launchers," he wrote on his blog.

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