Lockheed Martin will deliver 12 F-35B fighter fighters to Singapore by the end of the decade after the country exercises a contract option to purchase an additional 8.
Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen explained the decision to legislators during a budget session, saying that it followed a "complete examination" of the F-35 after the government gained more information about the programme as a result of its first order.
Pilots from the Republic of Singapore Air Force were able to evaluate the aircraft's electronic systems and train on F-35 mission simulators with the help of active-duty F-35 instructor pilots.
During a multinational air combat exercise in northern Australia, Singaporean soldiers flew alongside operators from Australia and the United States Marine Corps to explore different aspects of F-35 sustainment.
In January of 2020, the United States State Department gave its blessing to Singapore's proposal to purchase four F-35Bs, the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Optional funding for eight additional planes was included in the green light.
The F-35B was likely chosen by the Southeast Asian nation because of its ability to take off and land vertically from a runway as short as 600 feet in length. As a result, the Republic of Singapore Air Force may reduce its reliance on extremely long runways and lessen the impact of any attack on its airfields.
Singapore's main island, which is 280 square miles in size, is home to five airports and air bases, and one of the smaller offshore islands has a landing strip in case of an emergency. Somewhere in the early part of the next decade, one of the long-running bases will wind down and eventually close.
According to Ng, the Air Force plans to retire its present fleet of 60 F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole aircraft built by Lockheed Martin in the early 2030s in favour of the F-35B.
There are three local squadrons and a training detachment that use the F-16s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. When deliveries of the F-35 begin in 2026, the detachment will relocate to Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where it will serve as a training unit for the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
As part of the budget debate, supporting documents indicated that Singapore will replace its ageing fleet of Broncos with ST Engineering's upgraded Bronco 3 armoured tracked carrier. Nevertheless, the documents did not provide a schedule for the acquisition, the number of vehicles involved, or the total value of the contract.
The defence budget for 2023 is scheduled at $13.4 billion, a 5.6% increase over the amount put aside in 2022.
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