Singapore will replace its ageing F-16 fighter jets with F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the defence ministry announced on Friday, as the city-state opts for the US warplane over European and Chinese-made stealth fighters.
The announcement ends years of speculation that Singapore would eventually decide on the fifth-generation F-35 as a replacement for the F-16s.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in June last year had said that Singapore was evaluating a range of options, including Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Europe’s Eurofighter Typhoon and Chinese-made stealth fighters to replace F-16s.
The RSAF is expected to acquire a “small number” of the F-35 JSF for a full evaluation. This follows a five-year technical evaluation by the RSAF and Defence Science and Technology Agency.
“The technical evaluation also concluded that the RSAF should first purchase a small number of F-35 JSFs for a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet, the defence ministry said in a statement.
“In the next phase, MINDEF will discuss details with relevant parties in the US before confirming its decision to acquire the F-35 JSFs for Singapore’s defence capabilities, it added.
In a Facebook post on Friday, the defence minister said this phase might take nine to 12 months, adding that relevant agencies will speak to their US counterparts to “move the process forward”.
Details that will be discussed include price, quantity and which variant of the jet to buy, as well as issues like logistical requirements and the training of pilots.