Singapore selects Arkansas for F-16 and F-35 training

A UK F-35B seen during a demonstration. Singapore has requested for up to 12 F-35B aircraft.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced on 4 June that it has selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to host the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF’s) F-16C/D as well as its future F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) training detachments.

The Arkansas National Guard’s Public Affairs Office said in a separate announcement that the RSAF’s fleet of 12 F-16s – which are currently located at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Phoenix, Arizona under the Peace Carvin II programme – is expected to begin arriving in 2023, with its F-35Bs following in 2026.

MINDEF requested an initial batch of four F-35Bs for evaluation with the option to acquire an additional eight aircraft. The US Department of Defense (DoD) approved a potential sale to Singapore of up to 12 F-35Bs for an estimated contract value of US$2.75 billion in January 2020.

Ebbing ANGB was shortlisted by the MINDEF and the DoD following feasibility studies that considered factors such as infrastructure, suitability of the training area, and logistics support at three prospective locations. The other locations shortlisted alongside Ebbing ANGB were Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas and Selfridge ANGB in Michigan, with the latter selected as an alternate location.

The US Air Force (USAF) announced in a separate statement that Ebbing ANGB has been designated the primary training centre in the US continent for F-35 aircraft acquired by Foreign Military Sale (FMS) customers, noting that the facility will be able to support up to 36 fighter aircraft.

Besides RSAF F-16 aircraft, Luke AFB also hosts F-16s from the Republic of China Air Force that could be transferred to another base in due course.

MINDEF stated that the co-location of the RSAF’s F-16s and F-35Bs at Ebbing ANGB will maximise opportunities for integrated training, as well as provide enhanced joint training and exchanges with the F-35s operated by the USAF and the US Marine Corps (USMC).

“Such overseas training is important for the Singapore Armed Forces to overcome local airspace constraints and to conduct high-end realistic training,” said MINDEF. Beside the current F-16 training detachment at Luke AFB, the RSAF also maintains an F-15SG training squadron in Mountain Home, Idaho and an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter detachment in Marana, Arizona.

by Jr Ng