Singapore Strengthens Its Air Force with More F-35 Fighters Amid Growing Regional Threats

Singapore Strengthens Its Air Force with More F-35 Fighters Amid Growing Regional Threats
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Singapore is set to buy eight more F-35 fighter jets as part of its strategy to replace its aging F-16 fleet and position the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as a major force amid growing regional threats, the country's defense minister said this week.

Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said the RSAF intends to procure the F-35A, a larger and longer-range variant of the Lockheed Martin Corp. aircraft, to complement an existing order for 12 F-35Bs. According to Ng, the first F-35B aircraft is expected to arrive in Singapore by 2026. The B model has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, which are critical for operations on ships or in locations without traditional runways.

This purchase, along with the long-term replacement of several dozen F-16s with F-35s beginning in the mid-2030s, signifies that the RSAF has taken note of the growing capabilities of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force, which has begun to field advanced aircraft such as the J-20B, as Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, pointed out.

Davis also emphasized that this move puts Singapore ahead of other Southeast Asian air forces. He added that with F-35s from Australia, South Korea, Japan and the United States also operating in the region, there are opportunities for standardized maintenance and support arrangements.

However, Ng did not disclose the cost of the purchase during his address to the Singapore Parliament on Wednesday. The unit price of the F-35 can vary by customer and model. Last year, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin a $7.8 billion contract for 126 F-35s.

Nevertheless, Defense Minister Ng announced that Singapore's defense budget will increase by 2.5 percent to S$20.2 billion (US$15 billion) in the next fiscal year.

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