MELBOURNE, Australia — A KC-46A Pegasus tanker and F-35A fighter jets have made the trans-Pacific journey to attend the Singapore Airshow.
A pair of U.S. Air Force F-35As and a single KC-46A are on static display at the biennial airshow, which runs Feb. 15-18 at Singapore’s Changi Exhibition Centre.
The F-35As are from the 355th Fighter Squadron out of Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, which started receiving the Lockheed Martin-made fifth-generation fighter jet in April 2020. This is the first time the conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant has appeared at the Singapore Airshow.
According to 1st Lt. Rachel Self, the F-35As flew into the show with the KC-46A from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, where the fighter jets were taking part in Exercise Cope North with aircraft and personnel from Japan and Australia.
Self, whose call sign is “Savior”, told Defense News that the jets refueled four times from the KC-46A during the seven-hour trip from Guam to Singapore.
The KC-46A was from the 916th Air Refueling Wing out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. Flight tracking websites showed the tanker arrived in Singapore via Guam and Hawaii.
Col. Brian McClanahan, the air boss of the Defense Department’s contingent at the air show, said the presence of U.S. military aircraft and the contingent at the show are meant to serve as an opportunity to meet with Indo-Pacific partners and interact with the industry members.
Major events such as air and trade shows ground to a halt in the region since the last Singapore Airshow in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The KC-46A and F-35As join several other U.S. military aircraft at the show, including a U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon multimission aircraft on static display. Meanwhile, a Japan-based U.S. Marine Corps F-35B was put through its paces in a flying display.
This is the second time the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter has appeared at the Singapore Airshow, having made its debut at the 2020 iteration. The Republic of Singapore Air Force has the type on order.
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress, made by Boeing, also flew in an aerial display, having made the journey from Guam where it’s on a rotational deployment. Four bombers from the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, had arrived on the U.S. territory between Feb. 8 and 10.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.