1. I am paying close attention to the A400M program’s development and maturity — as this is a candidate to replace Singapore’s 10 modernised C-130H/Bs (with the obvious alternative being the C-130Js, which is a like-for-like replacement).Aside to that, unsure what’s the plan for Fokker 50 MPA/C-130 Transport since CAF mentioned that RSAF will continue to operate these type of aircraft for many years to come.
- 6 to 8 A400Ms can renew and enhance the RSAF’s transport capability while reducing RSAF manpower needs, once the technical issues are sorted by the manufacturer (see: the DT thread on the A400m and The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway) - Think Defence). The H225M fits well into the A400M cargo-hold and the RSAF can fly in most of it’s own helicopters for overseas exercises, instead of solely using a civilian contractor.
- If the Europrop TP400 engine and propeller gearbox problems continue, Airbus will not get new A400M users like the Korea or Singapore. Korean acceptance of the proposed Spain deal with breathe life for A400M export. However, I continue to scratch my head over the inability of Europrop International GmbH (a JV of four main European aircraft engine manufacturers), to get its act together.
- Despite these known problems, I am still a big fan of the A400m due to its unique features — including its ability to carry 37 tons of odd sized cargo, a feature that is very useful in HADR missions, and its future capability as a tanker (final certification in 2021) and to conduct the simultaneous deployment of up to 116 paratroopers by using both side doors (pending future certification). This means the SAF commandos can dispatch about one company of airborne troops in 1 aircraft.
- The A400M is being produced at the reduced rate of eight per annum (down from a high of 19 achieved in 2017), it should take a further 11 years for it to complete the remaining aircraft orders, extending work into the early 2030s, which means there is no hurry to place an order until they meet SAF’s requirements, including meeting factors like operating costs and op tempo.
2. ST Aerospace has redelivered RSAF’s and Oman’s C-130H fleets as part of the modernization these air forces. Turnround time of each the thee Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) C-130Hs is seven months, including a full depot overhaul — with center wing box replacement, where required.
- As an approved Lockheed Martin Hercules servicing centre coupled with an in-house engineering and development centre, ST Aerospace is a one-stop centre for the C-130 Hercules aircraft. Service offerings range from airframe, engine and component MRO, to landing gear and parts support, as well as customised upgrades and modernisation. To date, ST Aerospace has redelivered more than 570 C-130 aircraft, providing nose to tail solutions to C-130 operators. “We have more than 400 in-house design and analysis engineers for this sort of project,” Loh Piang Khuen, director military business unit for ST Aerospace said.
- The core of the modernization on both the RSAF and RAFO C-130s is the Rockwell Collins Flight2 integrated avionics suite. This multi-option digital system has also been sold in this region to Thailand, where 12 C-130Hs were modernized. The other partners with ST Aero on the RAFO aircraft are ADP, EuroAvionics, GE, L-3 and Test and Training Flight Services. There are six multifunction displays, and the cockpit lighting has been modified to permit pilots to wear night vision goggles.
- ST Aerospace continues to hope to win fresh customers for its Lockheed Martin C-130 cockpit upgrades from operators in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
3. I believe the Fokker 50 MPA are going to be quietly modernised (with upgraded radar and other systems like ELTA's ELM-2022ES). In the next 5 years, some of their taskings will be taken over by a maritime UAV. The RSAF has inadvertently revealed the existence of an enhanced version of its Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron UAV during the 'Forging Sabre 2019’ exercise, equipped with a belly mounted bulged pod - housing an undisclosed external sensor payload - being towed at the US airbase. The Heron Mark II and the MQ-9B Sky Guardian UAVs are certainly contenders for this role.What’s your take? Will be another 10-15 years? Will these aircraft rendered obsolescence? Will the airframe be able to operate the harsh external environment?
- In Mar 2019, the US State Department has given the green light for Belgium to buy MQ-9B Sky Guardians, in a US$600 million deal that could include four MQ-9Bs, two ground stations, five AN/DAS-4 multispectral targeting systems, 15 embedded GPS/inertial navigation systems, five AN/APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radars, and five detect-and-avoid systems.
- In Nov 2019, the Australian Department of Defence has down-selected the MQ-9B Sky Guardian for the programme to acquire an armed Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system under Project Air 7003 — A$1.3 billion (US$884m) programme.
4. This is a non- issue as commercial airlines are used more heavily than any RSAF aircraft and as long as these aircraft are well maintained, safety is not a major concern. Singapore has Harpoon armed MPAs with a capable search radar, so what other countries do to improve their MPA fleet, it is of little concern to us — there is no need to match them — if the LRSM is selected by the RSAF, integration testing of this capability with the Fokker 50 and F-15SG would be a plus. But it is more important that Singapore’s selected platform or weapons fit our way of war, rather than a this-vs-that comparison of platforms (without consideration of SAF requirements). Further, the RSAF has been sharing our MPA tactics with Indonesia during joint exercises with them.What about safety of her Pilots and Crew? What about the technological / armament aspects when compared to other MPAs in the region?
5. We have 8 Seahawks, to be used by 6 frigates — what further affirmation do you need? The MRCV is to be operational in the 2025 to 2027 time frame and the aviation centric JMMS even later. In 2025 to 2027, we may need a place an order for few more maritime helicopters but not at this moment.What about procuring more S-70B Sea Hawks? There is lacking of affirmation from the RSAF.