Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Friday that the country’s plan to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft will be announced soon, listing a number of manufacturers that could be in the running for a deal potentially worth billions of dollars.
Singapore’s fleet of around 60 F-16 jets are at the tail end of their service and Ng Eng Hen told reporters on June 29 that the decision will be made in few months.
“We thought long and hard about it, taken our time to choose a replacement, and we would be making a definitive decision likely in the next few months,” Dr Ng was quoted as saying by Channel News Asia.
However, Dr Ng did not mention the details, saying only that the new jet should be cost-effective, easy to maintain and capable of working with other platforms across the SAF.
“In the market you can only choose what is out there,” he added. “When air forces are choosing replacements, the usual suspects come up: Whether it’s the (European) Typhoons, F-35s, (Russian) Sukhois or Chinese-made stealth fighters.”
In addition to the fighter jets, Dr Ng announced various hardware replacements across the services, as the SAF prepares for a one-third manpower reduction by 2030.
Singapore's F-16s first entered service in 1998. The country has typically used US-made aircraft in the past, making the F35s – a variant of which appeared at the city-state's airshow back in February – a likely successor.
The head of Lockheed's international business said in February that Singapore was "seriously evaluating" a future purchase of F-35 jets – one of the world's most advanced fighters which start at around $80 million each.
He said initial talks with Singapore were centered on the F-35B short take-off and landing variant, which he described as "a nice fit for a smaller land-constrained environment."
Media reports show that Singapore had intended to buy four F-35s by around 2022, with the option to purchase another eight, but held off taking a decision on this in 2016.