Singapore has chosen the F-35 warplane to replace its aging fighter jets, opting for the US aircraft over European and Chinese models, the defense ministry 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 F-16s will have to retire soon after 2030 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been identified as the most suitable replacement to maintain the RSAF’s (Republic of Singapore Air Force) capabilities,” the ministry of defense said in a statement.
The ministry said the air force should first buy “a small number” of F-35s “for a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet”.
It took Singapore more than 5 years to make a decision on which planes to buy as they had to look carefully at specifications and what was needed, said Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen in a Facebook post.
“Our agencies will now have to speak to their US counterparts to move the process forward,” Ng said, adding it could be up to a year before any planes are purchased.
Australia, Japan and South Korea are among countries in Asia-Pacific that have already acquired F-35s.
The F-35 is a supersonic plane whose advanced stealth characteristic allow pilots to avoid detection by radars, according to Lockheed Martin.
The Singapore military also has F-15 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and submarines in its arsenal.