On August 22, 2005, the Singapore Air Force placed an initial order for the first batch of 12 F-15SGs
To the Americans, modern American fighter jets were only available to high-profile allies such as Iran, Japan and Israel and were never sold to Southeast Asian nations. This was mainly a measure to protect the technology secrets of the F-4E fighter, due to its importance to the air combat capabilities of the US Air Force. In addition, the F-4E’s operating costs far exceed the budgets of most of America’s third world allies.
The US sold only lighter and less modern F-5 fighters to third world customers. The F-5s, were sold widely throughout Southeast Asia, including Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Singapore’s F-5E can use AIM-120 long-range air-to-air missiles; and equipped with modern electronic warfare systems and more powerful radar, making it a potential threat, even to more modern fighters.
In the mid-1970s, the US reconsidered providing F-4E to Singapore, but by that time, the US began to put 4th generation fighters into service, namely the F-14 Tomcat and the F-15 Eagle. At this time, Singapore was no longer “interested” in the F-4E, but wanted a fourth-generation fighter like the US.
The F-14 and F-15 were America’s premier fighters for more than 30 years, until the F-22 Raptor entered service in December 2005. At the same time, exports of the F-14 and F-15 were more limited than the F-4E. Only the first three customers, “favored” by the US for sale to the air superiority F-15 variants were Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the only customer can buy the F- 14, Iran.
The Singapore Air Force ditched the F-4E in favor of a fourth-generation light fighter version, the F-16. The F-16s, combined with the upgraded F-5Es, formed the backbone of the Singapore Air Force until the early 2000s. Singapore again tried to buy the US F-15 heavy fighter. At this point, the US appeared to have significantly relaxed export restrictions on the F-15 Eagle. The F-22 was about to enter service, so the F-15’s technologies were no longer considered as sensitive as before.
Boeing then began to aggressively market the F-15 to US allies, and the F-15SG version for Singapore was accepted. On August 22, 2005, the Singapore Air Force placed an initial order for the first batch of 12 F-15SGs. Singapore Air Force continued to buy more F-15SGs from 2007 with the number of 40 F-15SGs. In 2018, Singapore received all 40 aircraft and put them on full combat duty; making the Singapore Air Force the country with the strongest air force in the region.
Currently, neighboring Malaysia, is deploying a squadron of dozens of Su-30MKM air superiority fighters. Indonesia also purchased Su-30 and is expected to equip Su-35 from Russia or Rafale from France. The number of F-15SGs is relatively large, and the features are slightly better than the fighters of neighboring countries and even China. Along with the existing number of F-16Cs and F-5Es, the Singapore Air Force is considered to be the most powerful air force in the region today.