SINGAPORE — The F-16 fighter jets of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) have been given an upgrade to enhance their capabilities and keep them operationally ready until the mid-2030s, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Sunday (Sept 24).
These enhanced capabilities include the Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which allows the F-16 to track and engage multiple targets from farther away, as well as an all-weather, ground-attack capability that enables it to strike targets with more capable precision munitions.
In 2019, Singapore first announced that it would buy four F-35B fighter jets for complete testing with the option for eight more. The F-35s will replace the RSAF’s ageing F-16 fleet, which entered service in 1998 and will be obsolete beyond 2030.
The F-16 upgrades started in 2016, with the enhancements taking place in phases in the years since then.
Apart from the enhanced radar, some of the latest upgrades for the F-16 fleet include a Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, where pilots will be equipped with a “first-look, first-shoot” high off-boresight capability. This enables the pilot to direct the weapons to the target simply by pointing his head towards it.
The system also presents the pilot with an overview of data including airspeed, altitude and target range, without the need to look into the cockpit during air combat.
The new upgrades will also equip the jets with modern air-to-air missiles such as the Python-5 missile, enabling it to engage a wide spectrum of air threats for enhanced lethality and survivability.
With its new air-to-ground munitions system, the F-16 jets can strike targets with greater accuracy in both day and night conditions using the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, for instance.
In a fast-paced air combat environment, the upgraded F-16s will be able to facilitate information exchange through its new Link-16 datalink capability, which allows the sharing of target information with other aircraft and ground forces. This can prevent the dual targeting and redundant employment of weapons.
Lastly, the electronic warfare suite of the upgraded fleet can detect, identify and counter threats posed by an enemy using an integrated electronic support and countermeasures system that comprises a warning receiver, a radar jammer, and a chaff or flare dispenser.
“With these new and advanced capabilities, the upgraded F-16s will ensure the RSAF’s operational readiness and capability to defend Singapore’s skies until the mid-2030s,” Mindef said.
Separately, the RSAF’s four F-35Bs, which can be expected to be delivered around 2026, will first be deployed in the continental United States for training and evaluation to determine its capabilities and integration with the rest of the Singapore Armed Forces’ warfighting systems.