Singapore’s First Upgraded F-16s Enter Service

The RSAF’s F-16D+s are among the first to be upgraded.
Credit: Chen Chuanren/ShowNews

SINGAPORE—The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has officially confirmed that “initial deliveries” of the upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16C/D/D+ Block 52 began in June 2021, suggesting a maturity of the program of the type here.

Although local spotters have photographed some upgraded 145 San F-16D+ aircraft around the island, the RSAF usually has remained tight-lipped concerning such developments until they reach a certain level of operation.

The announcement was made at the Singapore Airshow, being held Feb. 14-18.

RSAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Kelvin Khong said in a written interview that the fleet is being upgraded in phases, and subsequent deliveries will be rolled out progressively.

“We will continue to operate these fighter aircraft for at least another decade and are working toward replacing the F-16s at the end of their operational life,” he said. Khong is an F-16 and F-15SG pilot. 

The majority of the work is carried out locally at ST Engineering, although an RSAF F-16C also was spotted in Fort Worth, likely for prototyping and certification. RSAF F-16s will be outfitted with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, and certified with AIM-9X Sidewinders, Joint Direct Attack Munition and GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs.

At the same time, the RSAF placed four firm orders for Lockheed Martin’s F-35B, planned for delivery in 2026. Khong said it will first be based in the U.S., where experts will test the “aircraft’s advanced capabilities, including its short takeoff and vertical landing capability, and determine the integration requirements with the rest of the Singapore Armed Forces warfighting systems.”

The Singapore Ministry of Defense and US Defense Department have initially selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to house its future F-35B fighter aircraft and F-16 fighter training detachment. It will be relocated from Luke AFB, Arizona. The final decision is pending the U.S. Air Force’s conducting of an environmental impact assessment to confirm if Ebbing can support Singapore’s requirements. 

“Co-locating the RSAF’s F-35Bs and F-16 aircraft will maximize opportunities for integrated training between our fourth-generation and fifth-generation fighter aircraft, and enable joint training and exchanges with the U.S. Air Force’s and U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35s,” Khong said. 

The RSAF also is planning the long-term detachment of fighters and potentially airborne early warning assets in Guam, with infrastructure expected to be complete by 2029.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.