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Singapore reveals upgraded F-16 jets can fire Python-5 missiles

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously described a commemorative patch. It did not include imagery of a Display and Sight Helmet system.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Singapore’s upgraded F-16 fighter jets can now fire the Python-5 air-to-air missile, the country has confirmed.

An information board showcasing the upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s open house event lists the Python-5, made by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, among the weapons the aircraft can use.

The list also includes satellite-guided and laser-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition variants. Singapore had asked to integrate the two weapons in its Foreign Military Sales request to the U.S. as part of an F-16 upgrade package. The 2014 request to upgrade 60 Singaporean F-16s also sought integration of the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and the CBU-105 (D-4)/B sensor fused weapon.

The Air Force’s F-16 upgrade program also included the AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, new mission computers, and identification friend or foe technology.

Singapore’s 20 F-16D Block 52+ aircraft receiving upgrades first. The country also operates 40 older Block 52 aircraft delivered from 1998 onward.

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. The squadron is also supporting South Korea’s ongoing F-16 upgrade program.

The patch also showed what appears to be the ELL-8212 self-protection jamming pod, which was in use with Singapore’s F-16s prior to upgrade efforts. Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, makes the pod.

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 target.

The integration of the Python-5 will enable the service greater commonality in its munitions inventory. Singapore is already operating the Rafael-made Spyder ground-based air defense system, which uses the Python-5 and Derby medium-range missile, also produced by Rafael.

The company describes the Python-5 as a “fifth-generation air-to-air missile” and says it provides the pilot with a full-sphere launch capability, enabling engagements against targets from short to beyond-visual range at any point of the compass around the launch aircraft, with the missile locking onto a target after it’s fired.

The missile incorporates a dual-band imaging infrared seeker that enables it to engage “small, low-signature targets in look down, adverse background and cloudy environments,” the company says.

Singapore and Israel have had a close defense relationship since the former’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, with Israel proving instrumental in helping set up Singapore’s military.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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