February 10, 2014
Boeing may propose an upgrade package for Singapore’s Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet if the nation opens a competition, a senior company executive said in Singapore Feb. 10, on the eve of the nation’s air show.
“Should they go that route, we’d be interested”, said Chris Raymond, Boeing Defense, Space & Security vice president for business development and strategy.
Singapore’s defense minister, Ng Eng Hen, said in a visit to Washington in December that the country would modernize its F-16s before looking to a new aircraft such as the F-35. In January, the U.S. Defense and Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of Singapore’s interest in an upgrade package including an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The program would cover 60 aircraft and be valued at $2.4 billion.
The Singapore air force has been seen as a prime target for the Lockheed Martin-led Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (Capes) upgrade, intended for the U.S. Air Force. However, there have been multiple reports that Capes will not be funded in the fiscal 2015 budget, leaving international partners to pick up the research and development bill. Korea already has launched its own Aesa upgrade with BAE Systems and Raytheon.
Boeing has gained F-16 experience through the QF-16 target drone system. Raymond says other third-party upgrades, including the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program and the re-winging of A-10s, have built credibility for the company. “Any time you go on to another platform like that, you have to ask whether you have the tools and the access to intellectual property, whether you can manage or rebuild the supply chain.” Raymond notes. “We can be credible.”
So far, the Singapore government has not made its plans public or formally notified potential contractors. However, it is believed that BAE Systems underbid Lockheed Martin by a clear margin to win Korea, which could put the F-16 prime at a disadvantage without U.S. Air Force backing. Any problem with Capes also would put Taiwan’s 146-aircraft, $5.3 billion upgrade program in play.