Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced during a recent budget hearing that the country will exercise an option to acquire eight additional F-35B fighter jets. The purchase will bring Singapore’s fleet to a total of 12 aircraft, which will be delivered by the end of the decade by Lockheed Martin.
According to the Minister, Singapore conducted a full evaluation of the F-35 before making the decision to acquire more planes. Singapore’s initial order for F-35s provided the country with increased access to the aircraft program, which included opportunities for the Republic of Singapore Air Force pilots to fly F-35 mission simulators and evaluate the electronic systems onboard the aircraft. Singaporean personnel also visited overseas operators to study various aspects of F-35 sustainment and participated in multinational air combat exercises in northern Australia with Australian and US Marine Corps operators.
Singapore likely chose the F-35B because it can take off fully loaded with a runway of about 600 feet and land vertically. This feature allows the Republic of Singapore Air Force to reduce its reliance on long runways and mitigate potentially devastating effects of an attack on its airfields.
Singapore will replace its current fleet of 60 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighters with the F-35B, with plans to retire the F-16 fleet starting in the early 2030s. The country’s defense budget for 2023 is USD 13.4 billion, a 5.6% increase from the previous year.
Alongside the F-35s, Singapore will also acquire ST Engineering’s improved Bronco 3 armored tracked carrier to replace the original Broncos currently in service with its army, although there is no timeline, quantity or contract value provided in the accompanying documents released by the Ministry during the budget debate.
(Sources: DefenseNews; Singapore Ministry of Defence)