Singapore puts upgraded F-16s through the paces at Forging Sabre 2023

Singapore plans to replace its Lockheed Martin F-16s with the F-35 JSF by the 2030s.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) took the opportunity at the recently concluded Exercise Forging Sabre 2023 (XFS23) in the United States to showcase some of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16 multirole combat aircraft.

XFS23 was conducted from 11 to 30 September at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. According to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), the Idahoan training area offered an airspace that is more than 20 times the size of Singapore and enables the SAF to conduct realistic large-scale training that would have otherwise been impossible.

“Our upgraded F-16s come with new and advanced capabilities that ensure that they are able to stay operationally ready and defend Singapore’s skies until the mid-2030s,” said MINDEF in a statement.

MINDEF announced in 2015 that the planned modernisation of the F-16 fleet would proceed with enhancements centring on a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar – which was not disclosed but is widely believed to be Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) – that “extends the F-16’s detection range and enables the fighter aircraft to track and engage multiple targets at greater distances”, while enabling an all-weather ground-attack capability with more capable precision munitions.

An earlier US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announcement had revealed that mission equipment worth approximately US$130 million had been requested by Singapore to support its F-16C/D upgrade effort. This included 12 Northrop Grumman LN-260 embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), 50 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JMHCS), 90 BAE Systems AN/APX-126 Combined Interrogator/Transponders, and 92 Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT).

The DSCA also noted that the proposed sale includes additional requirements beyond an earlier request made in January 2014, which detailed several major upgrades worth approximately US$2.43 billion.

The RSAF also revealed in the same month that it had equipped its F-16 aircraft with the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Python-5 air-to-air missile.

According to Rafael, the Python-5 is a “fifth-generation” missile that offers a full-sphere, lock-on after launch capability out to a range of up to 20 km. The missile also features a dual-band imaging infrared seeker that enables it to engage small and low-signature targets even in cluttered environments.

by Jr Ng