Singapore - The Eagles will definitely be landing in Singapore. The Defence Ministry announced on Sept 6 that it would replace its ageing A-4 Super Skyhawk fighter-bombers, with the American Boeing F-15T Strike Eagle. The Super Skyhawk fighter-bombers had been the mainstay of the Republic of Singapore Air Forcefor 31 years.
The Defence Ministry has yet to sign a contract with Boeing but said that final negotiations were under way. The Eagle's closest competitor had been French company Dassault Aviation's Rafale.
According to The Straits Times, Singapore is likely to purchase between eight and 12 aircraft. The deal, which would include weapons like missiles and precision-guided bombs, may cost Singapore more than US$1 billion, defence sources said.
Singapore's final choice of warplane - made after an eight-year search - has been keenly awaited by air forces shopping for new-generation fighter aircraft because the Republic is regarded as a "reference customer".
Singapore's choice of weapons influences what other countries buy because its Ministry of Defence is known to be a fussy buyer, with high standards for assessing weapons and equipment.
The F-15 is a twin-engined fighter jet that carries two crew and is designed to knock enemy planes out of the sky and attack targets on land and sea with precision-guided weapons.
Boeing has described the F-15 as a plane with "a perfect combat record of 101 victories and zero defeats". It said the F-15s shot down four MiG-29 fighters during the Balkan War as well as 33 of the 35 aircraft Iraq lost in air combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The F-15 also has one of the best safety records in the US Air Force history. It has safely landed after being hit by lightning and after withstanding a fuel-tank explosion, with destroyed tail sections and with a half wing missing.
While the Ministry of Defence did not give reasons for choosing the F-15, one analyst felt that the aircraft was an interim choice.
Mr Robert Karniol, Asia-Pacific editor for Jane Defence's Weekly, said he did not regard the F-15 as a "hot aircraft" in the next 20 to 30 years. He believes thatSingapore might opt for a more sophisticated aircraft in future, or use a combination of fighter planes and combat drones once the technology of unmanned aircraft matures.
* RSAF picks F-15 Eagle as next fighter (The Straits Times, Sept 7)