Latest recruit to development and demonstration phase moves to receive fighters early

Singapore is to seek 2012 delivery of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) when it joins the programme as a security co-operation participant (SCP) later this year.

A letter of agreement (LoA) will be signed this year bringing Singapore into the JSF system development and demonstration phase. The LoA represents the conversion of a letter of intent (LoI) signed in February, and gives Singapore a seat at the critical design review next year.

Singapore is hoping to determine which JSF delivery slots it can expect before it selects a new interim fighter. It has shortlisted the Boeing F-15T, Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon for a requirement for up to 24 aircraft, with a decision due in late 2004 or 2005.

Industry sources say Singapore has gained US support for JSF delivery slots from 2012, but this would mean that five or six of the eight JSF partner countries would have to allow Singapore to move ahead of them in the queue for aircraft.

Rivals predict Singapore will not be in a position to receive its JSFs for several years after the planned 2008-9 delivery of the first interim fighter. They are hoping it will be unwilling to take the gamble of planning on the basis of JSF deliveries in 2012. "The promise has been 2012 to everyone," says a Boeing executive. "We know that's not going to happen. The chances of it staying on track are slim. History tends to repeat itself, and we stand ready if it does."

Lockheed Martin sees 2012 JSF deliveries for Singapore as realistic because several of the Level 1 and Level 2 partners, which are above SCPs in the pecking order, do not require early deliveries. "We have been studying our capacity and we see no issue in achieving 2012 deliveries for Singapore or others outside the US government or Level 1 and Level 2 countries," it says.

Lockheed Martin believes securing early delivery slots could even prompt Singapore to reconsider plans for an interim fighter, given the cost of supporting a new type, and the possibility there may be only three years separating JSF and the fighter purchase.

Singapore will not secure firm JSF delivery slots until it signs a production LoA in 2007 or 2008, however, and observers believe early JSF deliveries would threaten the size of the interim buy rather than the buy itself.

Source: Flight International