Singapore to buy upgrade for its F-16 fighter jets: US

Singapore is ready to invest $2.43 billion to modernize its F-16 fighter jets in an arms deal with the United States, the Pentagon has said.

The Defense Department yesterday informed Congress of the planned sale that would involve new radar, navigation systems, missiles and other advanced equipment for Singapore's aging fleet of F-16s.

The deal would provide new systems that project a display onto a pilot's helmet visor, allowing the F-16 pilot to aim sensors and weapons where he or she is looking.

The deal also would deliver a number of different precision-guided bombs for testing, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales.

"The proposed upgrade will improve both the capabilities and the reliability of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) aging fleet of F-16s," the agency said in a statement.

"The proposed sale will improve the security of a strategic partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia Pacific region," it said.

The modernization of Singapore's F-16 aircraft will buy the country more time as it weighs a possible purchase of the costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will eventually replace all of America's fighter jets.

During a visit to Washington in December, Singapore's defense minister, Eng Hen, confirmed his government was in no rush to make a final decision on the F-35 aircraft.

"We're in no particular hurry, because our F-16s are still very operational, and they're due for upgrades," he said on December 12.

"But it is a serious consideration."

The United States, concerned about China's growing military might, has touted a strategic "rebalance" to the Asia-Pacific and has made a point of promoting arms sales to the region as well as rotational deployments of ships and aircraft to Singapore and elsewhere.

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