Singapore will acquire eight additional Lockheed Martin F-35Bs, bringing its future fleet of the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) type to 12 examples.
“After a full evaluation, Singapore’s defence ministry and the Singapore air force conclude that the F-35 will best meet our defence needs now and in the future,” writes defence minister Ng Eng Hen in a Tweet.
“The Singapore air force will be acquiring eight more F-35Bs, to be added to our fleet by the end of this decade.”
He adds that this will support the retirement of the nation’s Lockheed F-16 fleet in the mid-2030s. Ultimately, he suggests that Singapore’s fighter fleet will comprise F-35s and Boeing F-15SGs.
In January 2019, Singapore confirmed that it would acquire four F-35s, which were subsequently confirmed to be the B-model STOVL variant. In land-scarce Singapore, the variant’s ability to operate from short runways is likely seen as a key benefit.
One year later, in January 2020, the US Department of State approved a Foreign Military Sales deal to supply up to 12 F-35Bs to Singapore for an estimated $2.75 billion.
Original plans call for Singapore to start receiving its F-35s in 2026. The aircraft will not fly to Singapore but operate from Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Arkansas.
In September 2022, a Republic of Singapore Air Force officer involved in the F-35 evaluation programme appeared to leave open the possibility that Singapore might consider other variants apart from the ‘B’, namely the conventional take-off and landing F-35A.
Answering a reporter’s question about whether other F-35 variants might be considered, Major Zhang Jiangwei had this to say: “This will ultimately depend on the results of our evaluation, and we cannot make any determination right now. And we are not sure about how things will go in the future.”
Ng’s F-35B announcement comes as part of Singapore’s budget for 2023. He adds that the Singapore military will increase its use of advanced simulators, allowing combined virtual exercises and providing “many possibilities for training”.