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Singapore equips RSAF F-16s with Israeli-made Python-5

September 14, 2023 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) publicly confirmed last week during an open house celebration at the at Paya Lebar Air Base that its upgraded F-16 C/D/D+ fighter aircraft are armed with the Python 5 air-to-air missile.

RSAF F-16D block 52 #01-6029 from the 425th FS is landing at Luke AFB on May 11th, 2023 adorned with the tail scheme to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the US-Singapore partnership. [Photo by Thomas Backus]

In 2018, Singapore purchased a number of SPYDER surface-to-air missile platforms developed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). As such, Singapore has likely had the Python-5 missile since then.

The Python-5 is currently the most capable air-to-air missile (AAM) in Israel's inventory and one of the most advanced AAMs in the world, even though it has a relatively short radius of 20 kilometers. The Python-5 was introduced in 2003 and as a beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile, it has "lock-on after launch" (LOAL) capabilities, and has all-aspect/all-direction (including rearward) attack ability. The missile features an advanced electro-optical infrared homing (with imaging infrared) seeker which scans the target area for hostile aircraft, then locks-on for terminal chase.

Three years after its introduction, the Israeli Python 5 air-to-air missile got its first combat kill when an Israeli F-16 downed a Hizbollah UAV.

The Python-5 missiles were incorporated into the RSAF's fleet of upgraded F-16 C/D/D+ fighters as part of the aircraft's mid-life upgrade (MLU) programme meant to extend their service lives into the 2030s. A commemorative unit patch for the Singaporean F-16 upgrade program had shown a Python missile, hinting at its eventual integration with the jet. The U.S. Air Force’s 416th Flight Test Squadron, based at Edwards Air Force Base in California, issued the patch.

Singapore’s F-16 pilots also use the Display and Sight Helmet system, made by Israeli firm Elbit Systems, that allows pilots to aim weapons by looking at a targe

The unveiling came ahead of a major open house celebration, at the air base, this weekend to mark the 55th anniversary of the founding of the RSAF, which was established following the model of the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Between 1998 and 2004, Singapore bought 62 F-16C/Ds, from the block 52 cohort, in multiple batches. Notably, the model bought by Singapore is the same model that the IOF used to custom-design the F-16 Soufa, which made the possibility of integrating the Python-5 missile possible.

Singapore is eventually set to replace its F-16s with stealthy F-35B Joint Strike Fighters capable of landing and takeoff in a vertical position or on a runway.

The arms race in Asia continues as the US military complex and government continue to fund it across multiple Asian countries.

Earlier in August, the US Department of State granted approval for a potential sale of infrared search and track systems for F-16s, along with other equipment, to Taiwan. This move, with a maximum potential value of $500 million, has been confirmed by the Pentagon.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Corp, which was awarded, on September 1st, an $18 million government contract to service Taiwan's F16s.

The work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and in Taiwan; it is expected to be completed by August 30, 2030.

Additional images:

RSAF F-16D block 52 #01-6024 from the 425th FS is landing at Luke AFB on May 11th, 2023 adorned with the new Peace Carvin II livery. [Photo by Thomas Backus]

RSAF F-16D block 52 #662 from 145 sqn is coming in for landing at Orange AB during exercise Garuda 2010 on June 16th, 2010. [ photo by Philippe Devos]

RSAF F-16D block 52 #01-6015 from the 425th FS is seen landing at Luke AFB in September of 2022. This airframe was delivered to Luke in April of 2022. [Photo by Thomas Backus]