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F-35 - International Participation

This is a discussion on F-35 - International Participation within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; F-35 - International Participation Dear Members, In view of the length of the old F-35 Discussion thread (at 206 pages) ...


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Old April 12th, 2012   #1
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F-35 - International Participation

F-35 - International Participation

Dear Members,

In view of the length of the old F-35 Discussion thread (at 206 pages), the Mod Team have decided to close the old thread. From 7 April 2013 onwards, members can continue their F-35 discussions in new threads. To organise these discussions, we have decided to split these discussions into three threads namely:
(i) F-35 Program - General Discussion (covering all common platform issues, like the helmet system, program office news, GAO reports, and weapons integration);

(ii) F-35B/C - Naval Air Discussions (covering all aircraft news specific to the USMC and the USN); and

(iii) F-35 - International Participation (Partners, SCP and FMS Sales Discussions).
We provide links to each of the other F-35 discussion threads above and this is No. 3 of 3 threads on the F-35. This thread dedicated to discussions related to the F-35 - International Participation (Partners, SCP and FMS Sales Discussions): covering all news relating to other nations planning to acquire or have acquired the F-35.

If you are a new member, you might want to read a backgrounder called "Air Power 101 for New Members", before posting to stay out of trouble (think of this as a survival guide, to avoid being banned by the Mod Team).

Journalism used to be an attempt to provide a balanced story. Unfortunately, some of the current reporting on the JSF tries to sell you a point of view that supports a pre-determined meme and we get poor quality journalism that contains known falsehoods to advance the meme. Further, we welcome informed criticism of the JSF program but we do not condone the passing-off of known falsehoods to advance an anti-F-35 meme (see the post on Clipping the Wings of Misinformation, in Air Power 101).

Having said the above, join us in the discussions below.

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Old January 7th, 2013   #2
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[Mod Edit: This post is copied from another thread because aussienscale's reply and re-direction provided HAWX is relevant. Australia is in the process of acquiring two Canberra Class LHDs but despite that, there is no intent to acquire F-35Bs nor any plans to operate fixed wing manned naval aviation on the Australian LHDs. As aussienscale noted below, there are threads where such hypothetical discussions took place; and he has provided such links to past discussions for your ease of reference.]

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Originally Posted by HAWX View Post
Australia is of course acquiring two LHDs as most of you probably already know. LHD stands for "landing helicopter dock" yet the LHDs have a runway and a ramp??? This might be a stupid question, but do you guys think that the F-35s we are getting in the future will be operational from these carriers? If any type of fixed wing aircraft are used on them, it will be a first for AUS in a while!
Hi Hawx, welcome to the site The short answer is no, you might see some possible cross decking from the USMC or the UK but that is about it.

The RAAF is aquiring the F-35A which is the conventional takeoff variant, the F-35B is required to operate from this type of vessell which is the short takeoff vertical landing variant.

Have a good read of the following threads, they have a wealth of discussion and information on this subject, and just a word of advise, read them as this subject comes up all the time and gets very tiresome, not saying that to palm you off, but it litteraly comes up every month or so

Royal Australian Navy Discussions and Updates

Sea trials, LHD (JCI)

A hypothetical carrier buy for the RAN?

These threads have a wealth of information, it is a lot of reading, but will have every imaginable bit of info you seek

Cheers

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Old April 1st, 2013   #3
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[Mod Edit: The next six posts below are transferred from the old F-35 thread, as they are relevant to the discussion here.]

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I don't know, Japan is going to do their own assembly, does that add to the cost?
IMO as soon as you move away from US unit recurring cost, you start to add variables.
as per SAR
A SH is $66m URF plus IR pods,helmet etc in full production rate in 2012 year dollars
A F-35 is $73m URF including IR and helmet in full production rate in 2012 year dollars [2020]
So if the spares, training costs are similar, the total cost should be similar using the same base year dollar and both in full production.
I can't see the F-35 being more than 10-15% dearer than a SH and ADF say they have a similar support cost
Full production, means the total AC bought right? Which is over 2,000 AC?

As far as support costs, are these figures good?

According to the GAO, the Super Hornet actually costs the U.S. Navy $15,346 an hour to fly. It sounds like a lot — until you see that the U.S. Air Force's official "target" for operating the F-35 is $31,900 an hour. The GAO says it's a little more — closer to $32,500.

CBC also asked Lockheed Martin to say if it had any quarrel with these numbers — and it did not.

Last edited by OPSSG; April 13th, 2013 at 11:27 AM.
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Old April 1st, 2013   #4
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It seems that using this rough method the Japanese package gives a price of $238m per aircraft -- why is the Israeli package more relevant comparison?

I would have thought that the Japanese package should be more relevant due to the similar number of a/c. I would assume that in a package there are some "base costs" that are quite independent of the number of aircraft in the package?


http://www.deagel.com/news/FMS-Brazi...6453.aspx]FMS: Brazil Seeks 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets

FMS: Israel Wants up to 75 F-35 Stealth Fighters

FMS: Japan Requests Sale of up to 42 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft as F-4EJ Replacement
I imagine there would be some costs that are shared, but I imagine that the more aircraft you buy, the more your support requirements will increase, at least if you intend to have these aircraft operational...

There is a bit of difference in price there, but it must be borne in mind that packages are rarely alike (for instance I don't see any mention of reprograming centres in Brazil's Super Hornet request) but the figures bear out my earlier point.

You can have an operational Super Hornet capability now or an F-35 capability later. The Super Hornet capability is only a small percentage cheaper, but is a significant percent less capable and one that is far more likely to be increasingly outclassed by advancing threats over the long lifespan that whichever of these capabilities you buy, will have to have?
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Old April 1st, 2013   #5
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Full production, means the total AC bought right? Which is over 2,000 AC?

As far as support costs, are these figures good?

According to the GAO, the Super Hornet actually costs the U.S. Navy $15,346 an hour to fly. It sounds like a lot — until you see that the U.S. Air Force's official "target" for operating the F-35 is $31,900 an hour. The GAO says it's a little more — closer to $32,500.

CBC also asked Lockheed Martin to say if it had any quarrel with these numbers — and it did not.
your link of the SH being $55m is in late 1990's year dollars or base year, the SAR has the 2012 year dollar at $66.6m and has the 2012 year dollar for the f-35a at $73m yearly full production rates which for the f-35a is usaf 80 units
as to the $110, this may well be a current LRIP number, journalists love to have apples and oranges

depends, there are debates where usaf, usn and usmc cost their planes differently and the GAO $32k is an average of all 3 isn't it?
I don't think LM has committed to a price per hout yet, so I would need to see what they actually said in context

Jane's said australia costed the super hornet at $24k per hour and the f-35a at $21k per hour.
our SH $24k is a lot higher than the USN SH $15k
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Old April 2nd, 2013   #6
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I looked up what Norway expect to pay for her package of 52 F-35; approx. 61 billion NOK, with today's exchange rate that's 10.5 billion USD, translating into 202 million USD per F-35, which matches what AMD2k suggested on the basis of the Israeli FMS.

The 61 billion NOK is a P50 estimate; the P85 estimate is 71 billion.

A country like Canada, which is also a partner should end up in a similar ball park.

Another interesting figure is TCO.

TCO for the Norwegian F-35 are estimated to 230 billion NOK (40 billion USD). Some key parameters:

* 48 operational F-35A + 4 trainers (stationed in the US)
* 30 years of operation
* All operational F-35 at one airbase
* The number of flight hours is assumed to be 7900 hours per year.
* Delivery of trainers will start in 2016, main delivery will start in 2018 and last until 2021.

The Norwegian defence budget is around 42 billion NOK per year, (7.2 billion USD), however I think it will be further expanded to incorporate the purchase of the F-35 package.

I think that countries like Denmark are now a bit hesitant because of the high cost and high TCO of the F-35. Like most countries in Europe Denmark will probably further reduce the defence budget in the coming years.

Today the Danish defence budget is around 21 billion DKK and the Danish Krona has roughly parity with the Norwegian Krona, so they have half the Norwegian defence budget. It seems they plan on deciding in 2015, and at that time their defence budget most likely will be even smaller. Perhaps they decide to drop fighter jets just like they dropped their submarines some years back?

Alternatively they will end up with a very small number of F-35 -- and/or they have to drop some other capabilities to afford the F-35.

I think the plans for Norway looks great, the only thing that is of some concern is that we will put all our eggs in one basket and have one airbase, roughly in the middle of the country. If a strong aggressor wants to gain air superiority, a massive surprise attack to take out that single airbase would almost ensure air superiority.

We will have a forward base in Northern Norway, with I think 2-4 F-35 tasked with QRA. Not much to go to war with...
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Old April 5th, 2013   #7
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just to be perfectly clear, when you mention these prices, the equivalent prices for other aircraft would include sensor suites as well am I right? Like in the Super Hornet comparison. Also, by your calculations, this price includes weapons and some sort of maintenance (I suppose) that is included in the overall price am I right? If so, 180 million per airframe is not a lot more than other airframes and, considering bang for the buck, might even be a contender for the F-16... Pretty impressive considering all the cost overruns.
Yep, it's nowhere near as expensive as many would like to portray.

Yes, most package costs, include various elements beyond the actual aircraft and engines and all these things are required to deliver capability. The cost of an individual aircraft isn't all that relevant as an aircraft does nothing by itself.

The cost overruns have primarily effected the development budget. The cost has increased but nowhere near as much as some of the doom and gloom merchants "predicted" and there are factors in those increases that are beyond the control of the program and apply equally to other aircraft and platforms.
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Old April 6th, 2013   #8
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Does this equate to a win for the F-35 in South Korea?
Equate? Not really but it's definitely compelling that the ROKAF isbeing offered a state-of-the-art 5Gen platform at pricing levels one would expect of a 4Gen aircraft.

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Originally Posted by fretburner View Post
Because in my opinion, the Japan going for the F-35, I don't think South Korea will want anything that isn't as stealthy or better than the F-35. Which of course, will also result in Singapore buying the F-35.
Given the questions raised about the technical and financial viability of the ROK building an indigenous 5Gen stealth jet, perhaps the F-35 becomes more appealing and may be seen as the best way to keep up with the Tanakas. I don't think this has any direct bearing to the RSAF situation though and it wouldn't surprise me if they made a commitment before the Koreans announce their choice.

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Old April 7th, 2013   #9
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F-35 - International Participation

Friendly forces want high levels of interoperability with US forces, but if the JSF program does not achieve sustained and economic rates of production after LRIP Lot-9, they may look elsewhere; from Japan to South Korea (F-XIII competition) to Singapore (considering the option of acquiring by direct commercial sale, additional F-15SG aircraft) to Australia (considering the option of acquiring another 18 additional Super Hornets). Absent the F-35, this situation could leave these nations, as well as the US, much less prepared to either deter or face a direct challenge from China as a competing power in Asia. On 2 April 2013, there are three finalists (namely, the F-35A, the F-15SE or the Eurofighter Typhoon) for South Korea’s F-XIII competition, for 60 aircraft (see the F-35A FMS notification for a sale to Korea) and the decision for the F-XIII competition is due later this year.

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As at 14 March 2013, the number of fighters to be acquired are:
1,763 F-35As — USAF • 340 F-35Bs/80 F-35Cs — USMC • 260 F-35Cs — USN

Level 1 partner (financial stake in JSF program):
138 F-35Bs — UK (US$2.5 billion)

Level 2 partners (financial stake in JSF program):
60 F-35As/30 F-35Bs — Italy (US$1 billion)
85 F-35As — Netherlands (US$800 million)

Level 3 partners (financial stake in JSF program):
100 F-35As — Australia (US$144 million)
100 F-35As — Turkey (US$195 million)
65 F-35As — Canada (US$160 million)
52 F-35As — Norway (US$122 million)
30 F-35As — Denmark (US$110 million)

Security Cooperative Participants:
19 F-35As — Israel
Undergoing evaluation — Singapore

FMS Customer (with some assembled in Japan):
42 F-35As — Japan
Israel was the first Security Cooperative Participant (SCP) to place an order for 19 F-35As on 7 Oct 2010. Japan was the first non-partner of SCP to place an order for 42 F-35As on 19 Oct 2011.

Who will be the next non-partner country to place an order for the F-35? Will it be Korea or Singapore?
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Old April 7th, 2013   #10
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To get the ball rolling in this new thread, I am going to quote or repeat a portion of a relevant post on F-35 and international developments from two weeks ago. This post on Singapore and their evaluation of the F-35 below.
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Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaking on 12 March 2013 at the Committee of Supply Debate 2013 said:

"Investing steadily over the long-term allows MINDEF to keep a constant lookout for platforms with cutting-edge capabilities that can provide Singapore with that strategic advantage. For this reason, we joined the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Programme as a Security Cooperation Participant (SCP) back in 2004. The JSF, as some members know, now the F-35, has the potential to be the most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft for decades to come.

Though the F-35 aircraft is still in development, we are nonetheless interested in the platform for our future needs. The F-35 will be the vanguard of next generation fighter aircraft when operational. Our F-5s are nearing the end of their operational life and our F-16s are at their mid-way mark. For the longer term, the RSAF has identified the F-35 as a suitable aircraft to further modernise our fighter fleet. We are now in the final stages of evaluating the F-35. So in the interest of transparency, I'm telling you we're now in the final stages of evaluating the F-35. MINDEF will have to be satisfied that this state-of-the-art multi-role fighter meets our long-term needs, is on track to be operationally capable and, most importantly, is a cost-effective platform. I've given many necessary caveats before we make a final decision, but we are evaluating the platform."

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has 24 F-15SGs, 20 F-16Cs and 40 F-16Ds, 28 F-5Ss and nine F-5Ts, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. It also has 19 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters among its other assorted aircraft. It is not a surprise to see news reports stating that, 'Singapore Poised To Announce Purchase Of 12 F-35Bs'. It has been leaked to the press (see also a Reuters article on the same topic) that Singapore plans to procure the F-35B and as noted in the AOL news article dated 25 March 2013:

"The Singaporeans are extremely shy about declaring their intentions in public, eager to offer few chances for China and Malaysia to react, but two sources familiar with the program confirmed the likely announcement. Given Singapore's tiny size its choice of which of the three F-35 versions to buy is not surprising. A plane that can take off almost vertically and can land vertically is able to operate from a much smaller footprint than, say the F-35A (the Air Force version) or F-16 Block 60s. And, given Singapore's geography, the F-35B makes great sense for its ability to operate closely with the US Marines...

...One senior official from the region, who has access to the most sensitive classified information about the system, told me recently that the F-35 is "simply undefeatable." And this official said the aircraft is expected to maintain its dominance for at least one quarter of a century...

...Strengthening this highly capable net will be the new F-35 plant Japan is expected to announce soon. Mistubishi Heavy Industries is expected to construct a plant to build Japan's F-35s. It would eventually provide the US and its Pacific allies with a central repair and replacement plant in the region, one in addition to any repair centers the US builds in the region.

Add the regular port visits to Singapore by the Littoral Combat Ship fleet to the F-35 decision and you've got a pretty powerful national security statement by the tiny state."

It is known that as a Security Cooperation Participant, Singapore had requested studies on the suitability of the F-35B, in augmenting and enhancing the RSAF's ability to address its threat matrix (which includes neighbours who can be at times ambitious and willing to impose an embargo, or such other coercive measure, as part of their negotiating tactics to settle disputes) and fit within the RSAF's concept of operations.

To assure Singapore's survival, it has aided its neighbours when in need – due to financial crisis or natural disaster – regardless of ideological or cultural differences but it retains breathing room to manage its vital strategic interests by consistently funding and growing the capabilities of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

The groundwork for Exercise Torrent was laid 35 years ago and the first Exercise Torrent was conducted in 1986. The capabilities RSAF demonstrated today can be traced to the Operational Master Plan (OMP) for RSAF air bases that the Ministry of Defence drew up in the mid-1970s. Dr Goh Keng Swee, the architect of the SAF, was defence minister then and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the then prime minister. Singapore's defence planners recognised even then that attacks against air bases could clip the RSAF's wings. Therefore, the RSAF has developed over the years several measures to mitigate any attempt to restrict its air operations, including hardened/camouflaged airbases, a well-established runway repair capability, main taxiways which serve as secondary runways and public roads which double up as alternate runways should the need arise. From Roads to Runways - YouTube

The RSAF's flighter fleet would count for nothing if runways were damaged. Lack of air cover would, in turn, jeopardise the mobilisation of SAF units during the first 6 critical hours, when large numbers of citizen soldiers reporting at mobilisation centres (citizen soldiers on alert are required to report to their mobilisation centres within 6 hours or less) would present an aggressor with a target-rich environment (eg. Exercise Torrent VI, last held in 2008 - where the RSAF converted a public road into an alternate runway). RSAF Exercise Torrent 2008 - HD - YouTube

During Exercise Torrent VI, 400 RSAF personnel took 48 hours to transform a 2,500m long road into a runway. Twelve warplanes - representing all of the RSAF's fighter types in service in 2008 and one E-2C Hawkeye - broke the speed limit along Lim Chu Kang Road as they showcased the RSAF's little-known capability to launch and recover aircraft using a public road, under the OMP. For a country that counts the hours in hardening its defence posture, evaluating the F-35B for fit within the SAF's concept of operations make perfect sense.

Further, a squadron of easily-dispersed F-35Bs would ensure that the RSAF would keep-up with air power generation even if all its airbases and runways are under attack at the same time. Knowing that the RSAF retains an air combat capability with alternate runways and F-35B would complicate any aggressor's calculations in attempting a first strike to negate Singapore's defences.

Of particular interest is the low key growth of Japan-Singapore defence relations. Both countries are co-chairing the ADMM-Plus Experts' Working Group on Military Medicine. In 2012, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen made his introductory visit to Japan from 9 – 11 October. He met with his counterpart Satoshi Morimoto (and also met Chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee Yasukazu Hamada). Further, in Oct 2012, Japan's navy marked its 60th anniversary with a fleet review that was joined by vessels from the United States, Singapore and Australia.

In 2013, Chief of Staff of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), General Haruhiko Kataoka, called on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in his introductory visit to Singapore from January 27 to 29 (and met with Singapore Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong and Chief of Air Force Major-General Ng Chee Meng).
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Old April 7th, 2013   #11
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It is interesting to note that beyond the USMC, Singapore, a number of Air Forces are planning to operate the F-35B, namely, UK's Royal Air Force (138 F-35Bs) and Italy's Air Force (15 F-35Bs). The Italians have a base sharing plan for its 30 Navy and Air Force short-takeoff, vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft, which is set to save on maintenance and support.
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RN in Review: 2012

...The [UK] MoD intends to buy 48 F-35B’s by 2022, including 3 test and evaluation phase aircraft which will probably never be converted to an operational configuration. Delivery of the first production standard aircraft should be in 2014 (although as it won’t be ordered until 2013 as part of LRIP Lot VII, a 2015 delivery date seems more probable), with flying trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth beginning in 2018. The Royal Air Force (RAF) plans to form the first front line JSF squadron - No. 617 Squadron RAF - of 12 aircraft (9 deployable) in 2020/21. Whilst there is speculation that in the longer term there could be two front line F-35B squadrons, each of nine aircraft – one RAF manned and one Fleet Air Arm manned - there is no evidence to back this up.

Given the very small number of carrier capable aircraft likely to be available in face of other competing commitments, the RAF is advocating that the model adopted in the later years of the Invincible class aircraft carriers should be followed. This allows for one operational aircraft carrier, which would embark a “single figure” number of F-35B aircraft (5 or 6 based on historical experience) for a few weeks a few times a year – either for training purposes or for major exercises. However the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, referred in a speech on 1 November 2012 to 12 F-35B’s being routinely embarked, and he thought that there was “a realistic possibility of both carriers coming into service”, rather than one being sold or going in to extended reserve as SDSR proposed. Operating both carriers will cost an extra £70 million per year (mostly on additional personnel), and it is vital that the RN makes a convincing case in SDSR 2015 as to why these very large and expensive ships are still needed – a case extending far beyond their original ‘carrier strike’ raison d'être...
Italy’s original planned order of 131 JSFs was cut back to 90 in February 2012 due to budget cuts. The Air Force had planned to buy around 40 F-35B STOVLs to replace its AMX fighters, while the Navy said it needed at least 22 to keep a full contingent on board the Cavour. Instead, the services are left with 15 STOVLs apiece, while the Air Force will receive 60 conventional F-35As.
“Supportability is a key issue with two squadrons of 15 and 15 [STOVLs],” Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Italian Air Force chief said. “We think 30 is a number that is sustainable, and that is why we are going together. We will have common support and different advanced training.
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Old April 7th, 2013   #12
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It is interesting that Singapore has expressed interest in a number of F35B to replace the F-5/A4 and not the A model like Australia and the USAF is acquiring. It does make tactical sense with such a small area to defend and will greatly improve the RSAF flexibility in deploying the aircraft, but it does have implications with the maintenance side of the equation with the B model expected to be more expensive to maintain than the F35A and compared to earlier aircraft such as the A4 and F-5 fleet which were the main considerations why the EX USN A-4B were purchased in 1973 and not new build AV-8A Harriers, which would have complimented F5 in the long term as the main air superiority fighter aircraft and the AV-8A as the air to ground.

I can see why the RSAF would be interested in the F35B coupled with flexible basing and with the US expanding into the pacific, but would it be more logical to go with the A with commonalty with Australia in a logistical spares footprint since I would imagine most of their training would be in Australia.

Last edited by OPSSG; April 7th, 2013 at 07:34 AM. Reason: Post moved to F-35 - International Participation
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Old April 7th, 2013   #13
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There is a 6 April 2013, Malaysian news article "Singapore looks to ties that bind", that looks at the proposed F-35 buy from a US-Singapore relationship angle that is surprisingly understanding.

The key to understanding the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is that Singapore is a status quo noteworthy rising power, sitting at a major maritime chokepoint (that is interested in limited sea control for specific purposes and supportive of freedom of navigation through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore). The Singapore Navy is a green water navy, with some special features, including being used as a tool for diplomacy. Through the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Singapore's land based air power dominates these chokepoints, as a status quo power. The hard power that controls the adjacent land to the chokepoint, also controls passage of vessels. The ability to operate via FOBs and disperse forces, gives the SAF flexibility in the conduct of its defence, at a place and time of its choosing. Compounding its geo-strategic vulnerability, Singapore is the smallest country in land size within ASEAN.

Having been dealt a geo-strategically disadvantaged hand at the country's formation on 9 August 1965 in the mist of tension with its ambitious neighbours, Singapore has to build military capabilities that it needs, first, and that has been the country's singular focus since August 1967. The SAF is not an expeditionary army, nor is the RSN a blue water navy; but it is the world's smallest country with a tertiary air force. Singapore's lack of depth has resulted in a clear focus on the building the basic force structure for regional over-match, if threatened; and the RSAF's capabilities serve to deter larger powers from acting unilaterally and buys valuable time for the citizen soldiers should they be required to engage in the forward defence of Singapore. Over the years, along with falling birth rates and as the SAF became more capable the duration of service required of Singapore men, as citizen-soldiers, has been reduced.

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It is interesting that Singapore has expressed interest in a number of F35B to replace the F-5/A4 and not the A model like Australia and the USAF is acquiring.
Yes, it has come as a shock to some Singaporeans that Mindef is evaluating the F-35B, rather than the A model and it is clearly reflected in Singaporean posts in various forums. However, it is important to note that while the F-35B study was requested, the decision has not been made (see above post for the quote from the Minister of Defence dated 12 March 2013).

We are all keenly awaiting the official announcement of the procurement decision.

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Originally Posted by t68 View Post
It does make tactical sense with such a small area to defend and will greatly improve the RSAF flexibility in deploying the aircraft, but it does have implications with the maintenance side of the equation with the B model expected to be more expensive to maintain than the F35A...
A F-35B procurement will cost more to acquire and to sustain. But cost is not the reason for the choice. The F-35B study requested by Singapore is classified and will not be released as an open source document (but I have speculated on a possible tactical reason in my prior post, above - h/t to David Boey for stealing his ideas and prior discussions on Exercise Torrent).

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Originally Posted by t68 View Post
I can see why the RSAF would be interested in the F35B coupled with flexible basing and with the US expanding into the pacific...
A F-35B acquisition would enable the SAF (and its rapid deployment division - 21st Division, which is supported by 4 LPDs) to operate more like the US Marines (but without a LHD). Dispersion of forward deployed Singapore forces via FOBs is possible through the exploitation of the proposed acquisition of the F-35B, the refurbished KC-130 tankers, and the existing AH-64D Apaches, supported by Singapore's CH-47SDs. Dispersion allows RSAF aircraft to conduct flight operations for several days from numerous sites like stretches of highway, or expeditionary airfields using matting (eg. San Carlos Harrier FOB, built by the British in 1982 on the Falkland Islands - the runway length was 260m long). A main base located in the rear would provide logistical and maintenance support for ongoing operations and subsequent overhauling and repairing of aircraft. Since only some of the surveyed sites would be occupied, enemy targeting would be reduced to a complicated shell game.

It is clear, the SAF is keen and capable of learning from the US Marines, their concept of operations and strive to inter-operate with them at a joint service level (eg. on 9 February 1991, US Marines AV-8B Harriers operated out of a forward site at Tanajib, less than 40 miles from ground operations, to support Operation Desert Storm; Tanajib was an oil field support base that had an airstrip but this was expanded by the use of matting for taxiways and aircraft parking). Over time SAF will declassify more of Singapore's military capabilities and it will all become much clearer to both you and me.

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Notable SAF deployments over the years :
See this 2009 RSAF video: "Making a difference"

1. First overseas mission in 1970 when a 47-man team was deployed to provide humanitarian assistance to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) when the country was hit by a deadly cyclone.

2. First partnership with the UN in 1989 when a 14-man team was deployed to Nambia, Southwest Africa to assist the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) during the country's elections.

3. In July 1990, a massive earthquake that struck Baguio, Luzon Island, in the Philippines. A 28-man SAF medical team was deployed by C-130 and their mission lasted from 19 July to 2 August 1990. This small SAF medical team treated visited all of the major villages surrounding Baguio and had treated a total of 5,500 patients.

4. Joining the coalition forces for the first time, the SAF deployed a 30-strong SAF medical team during the First Gulf War (from 20 January to 13 March 1991). Led by then MAJ (Dr) Tan Chi Chiu, the SAF medical team was assigned to the 205th General Hospital, a 600-bed British Army Rear Hospital located inside King Khalid International Airport.

5. On 27 March 1991, Singapore special operations forces killed four terrorists to rescue the passengers and crew members of SQ117, which was hijacked in KL (see here for details). 1991 was also a period of tension between Singapore and her neighbours.

6. Participation in the UN Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) in 1991 to monitor the demilitarised zone along the Iraq-Kuwait border after the first Gulf war. The SAF had deployed a total of nine teams by the time the mission ended in 2003.

7. In 1993, four Super Puma helicopters and 65 SAF personnel were dispatched to Cambodia to assist the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), the UN mission overseeing the electoral process in Cambodia.

8. In 1996, the Indonesian and Singapore armed forces worked together in a hostage rescue operation in West Papua. Singapore sent a remotely piloted vehicle detachment to provide ISR for Indonesian special forces in Timika, West Papua, which facilitated the successful rescue of Indonesian and foreign hostages (from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany) taken by the Organisasi Papua Merdeka or Free Papua Movement.

9. On 9 July 1997, six flights of C-130 aircraft flew about 450 Singaporeans and foreigners out of the Phnom Penh, Cambodia and it marked the first successful non-combatant evacuation operation conducted by the SAF.

10. The RSAF Chinook training detachment in Texas had in the past assisted in:-
(a) fire-fighting operations in May 1998 (when a forest fire broke out in the Chinati mountain area in southwestern Texas);
(b) flood relief operations in September 1998 (in southern Texas); and
(c) in Hurricane Katrina relief operations in September 2005.
11. Between 1999 and 2003, the SAF, in support of the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste, contributed over 1,000 personnel and equipment that included naval vessels (LSTs) and UH-1H helicopters in the international effort to restore peace and security to Timor-Leste. The UH-1H helicopters was used to insert LRRPs to conduct green helmet patrols at the border of Timor-Leste. The conduct of these border patrols, intelligence gathering efforts, and presence of a quick reaction force enabled the SAF to effectively disarm militia-men and criminal elements in their assigned sector (to stop the cycle of violence). Further, at one stage of the mission, Singapore Navy LSTs provided up to 50% of all sea-lift to support the UN peacekeeping mission.

12. Between 2003 and 2008, more than 998 SAF personnel participated in the multinational effort to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq via deployment of a C-130; multiple deployments of Endurance Class LPDs, which helped the elite Naval Diving Unit develop its ROEs to deal with coordinated suicide boat attacks on Iraqi oil terminals in the Persian Gulf; the Singapore navy also brought into service, the Protector USV is a four ton, 9 meter (30 foot) long armed speedboat to deal with suicide boat attacks on the Iraqi oil terminals; and multiple deployments of KC-135R tankers. Between 2004 to 2008, the RSAF deployed KC-135R tankers (in 5 deployments for 3 month stretches each time) in support of coalition forces in Iraqi. RSAF KC-135Rs offloaded 14 million pounds of fuel to more than 1,400 coalition aircraft in over 300 refuelling sorties.

13. In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, more than 1,500 SAF personnel were deployed to Indonesia (along with Commander 21st Division and his command staff to Banda Aceh) and Thailand to provide humanitarian assistance / disaster relief assistance in the largest SAF overseas operation conducted so far. The SAF unilaterally deployed three Endurance Class LPDs (RSS Endurance was the first foreign navy ship to re-established a life-line to Meulaboh, a coastal town in West Sumatra that was previously completely cut off after the tsunami), eight CH-47 Chinook and four Super Puma helicopters, six C-130 transport aircraft, two F-50 utility aircraft and a mobile air traffic control tower as part of Singapore's direct contributions to the relief effort. With host nation support in Singapore, US Commands (Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and Naval Regional Contracting Center Singapore) worked 24/7 to surge supply capacity in support of the humanitarian effort in Operation Unified Assistance. Further, during the conduct of Operation Unified Assistance by US PACOM, two SAF officers proficiently in Bahasa Indonesia, with in-depth knowledge of Indonesian culture, psyche, and sensitivities to the presence of foreign military forces, were posted as Liaison Officers to enable the US to deliver aid to Indonesia with less fiction.

14. Since 2007, more than 470 SAF personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan to participate in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) peace support operations and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Beyond reconstruction work, providing small teams of institutional trainers to train Afghan forces (artillery and counter IED combat engineers); multiple rotations of imagery analysts (to exploit data gathered from UAV feeds); the SAF also deployed a 52-man Search II UAV team; and multiple rotations of artillery hunting radar teams for 15 months to provide early warning for rocket attacks on the ISAF base in the outskirts of Tarin Kowt (within "n" seconds of rocket launch detection). For their service in Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror various SAF officers have been awarded US service medals as pats on their backs. These include the US Legion of Merit, the US Joint Service Commendation Medal, the US Army Bronze Star and the US Army Commendation Medal, just to name a few. Currently, just six servicemen from the SAF's final deployment remain in Afghanistan as imagery analysts.

15. Since 2009, more than 700 sailors, soldiers and airmen have operated under the ambit of the multinational CTF 151 as part of the counter-piracy effort in the Gulf of Aden (GoA). In September 2012, a 145-person task group comprising of RSS Intrepid and a naval helicopter was deployed to the GoA under CTF 151. Further, Singapore naval officers and their command teams have been deployed to command CTF 151 in another three separate occasions, with the latest Singapore command team of 28 and six international officers (Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Korea) deployed in March 2013.

16. On 22 February 2011, 116 SAF personnel, were involved in an annual joint exercise with the NZDF, when the New Zealand earthquake struck. These SAF personnel were deployed along with NZDF personnel to Christchurch to provide disaster relief and to support the evacuation of civilians and emergency workers. To augment the relief efforts, additional SAF personnel (including a command team), 4 rescue dogs and the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) heavy urban search and rescue team and their gear were airlifted over 8,400 km to Christchurch. Thereafter, the two RSAF C130s were deployed alongside NZDF aircraft to create an air bridge to transport relief supplies and people for the duration of the relief efforts.
The SAF's Army Development Force (SG_ADF), which has a high readiness Company of Guardsmen, 7th Singapore Infantry Brigade (7SIB) and its parent division, the 21st Division are the force of choice in joint Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) with American and Australian forces in Asia. The choice of which of these Singapore Guards formations (SG_ADF, 7SIB or 21st Division) deployed depends on scale of operations. This is frequently practiced as part of Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand via the deployment of a Singapore Division Command element for the exercise.

For the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, commander 7SIB was deployed along with the men.

For the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami, commander 21st Division (a 1 star) and his command staff were deployed to support operations in Indonesia. SAF operations at Meulaboh, with over 1,500 troops was a brigade sized command at work in humanitarian assistance / disaster relief operations. The SAF has been observing the US Marines and their concept of operational maneuver from the sea. The SAF's conduct of operations at Meulaboh, was live demonstration of this capability at reinforced battalion size level (in multiple phases, supported by the Naval Diving Unit and Engineers for the beachhead pushing supplies to shore from 3 LPDs) and with the brigade HQ (operating like a mini-US Marine MEU, but with lesser resources and people), under a Colonel (who speaks fluent Bahasa), controlling the heli-mobile element (our our terminal air guidance teams set up multiple LZs) to deliver aid to the Indonesians. The then Colonel that was in command at Meulaboh, is now a Minister in the Singapore Government (after retiring as head of Tradoc, at a 1 star level).

By dispersing the SAF's air assets, Commander 21st Division can circumvent some of the restrictions of sea-based flight operations due to the limited aviation capabilities of the Endurance Class LPDs. The synergy that will result from dispersing RSAF aircraft (the proposed F-35Bs and the exisiting AH-64Ds) on land and/or on sea will provide the Commander 21st Division with air support that can be exploited at the time and place of his choosing in support of his subordinate Brigade Commands in their operational maneuver from the sea (OMFTS). OMFTS has the potential to force an enemy to defend a large area in the face of 21st Division's heli-mobility and ability to come by the sea (to conduct power projection in the face of light opposition).

The acquisition of the F-35B, if it occurs, will give an augmented 7SIB the combat power of a reinforced US Marine MEB, without its ability to sustain the force. Without a LHD/LHA to sustain the F-35Bs, Singapore has limited ability to sustain the force (but the intent is to fit our force into a coalition, rather than go it alone). It would be premature to talk about LHDs/LHAs in 2013 as Singapore lacks the resources to develop and sustain this capability (with the current defence budget). Singapore is further away from such a naval force structure, due to limited national resources to raise, train and sustain.

If you look at Singapore's 2012 or 2013 defence budget, it is not classed as a middle power (Australia, Canada, South Korea or Spain, just to name a few). Keep in mind that Singapore defence spending is one level below and there are limits to what the SAF can do to stretch Singaporean defence dollars at this time. The SAF is simply not as well resourced as the USMC (with the 8 Wasp class LHDs and the America class LHAs being built), the Italians (with the Cavour) or the British (with the Queen Elizabeth class), who are resourced for fixed wing naval air operations.

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Originally Posted by t68 View Post
...but would it be more logical to go with the A with commonalty with Australia in a logistical spares footprint since I would imagine most of their training would be in Australia.
Not so simple.

I have spoken to ADMk2 on the trends in ADF and SAF force development over the last few years. We agree that both countries seem to be developing complementary capabilities and this means different but complementary equipment, for slightly different roles. Both Defence Ministers do consult each other for overseas deployments, burden sharing in operations, and have formalized this as an annual meeting (the relationship has grown by leaps and bounds since East Timor). Case in point, RAAF acquires Growlers and RSAF acquires the F-15SG, giving us complementary aircraft to form a combined strike package and the same or similar logic may apply to the F-35A and F-35B acquisition by the two respective air forces.

There is some RSAF training in Australia but it is done on a unilateral basis and it only part of the basic portion of the fighter pilot training cycle. RSAF pilots are selected at the Air Grading Center (AGC), which is based in Tamworth, Australia (operating the CT-4 aircraft). After AGC, the trainees are sent to OCS in Singapore for training. Thereafter, these trainees attend the Basic Wings Course (BWC) with 130 Squadron. The BWC is 34 weeks and is held in Pearce, Western Australia with training conducted on the newly acquired Pilatus PC-21. Before proceeding for advanced training, trainees are also commissioned as officers upon completion of this basic phase of training.

The transition to the M346 aircraft in 150 Squadron (at Cazaux Airbase in France) and with the introduction of new training capabilities will allow the RSAF to conduct her own ab-initio WSO (Fighter) courses. Currently, for a WSO (Fighter), he or she attends a 72 week course to meet WSO requirements at either Naval Air Station Pensacola, USA and Salon or Tours Air Bases in France, respectively. Upon successful completion, they earn the coveted WSO (Fighter) Wings before their next training stint.

Next, the trainees are posted to the US at either Luke AFB (F-16C/D) or Mountain Home AFB (F-15SG) for fighter training, to stand-up as a squadron. It is a long training cycle.
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Old April 7th, 2013   #14
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I thought South Korea just asked for 60 F-35s? Or was this just for information on a potential purchase?
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Old April 7th, 2013   #15
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They asked what 60 would cost. They are getting the same info about 60 F-15SE and 60 Eurofighters.
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