State Department Approves F-35B for Singapore

 - January 10, 2020, 4:20 AM
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B is seen at Tsuiki Airbase in Japan, where the STOVL variant has been selected to serve alongside the F-35 conventional take-off/landing version. Singapore has now also selected the F-35B. (Photo: Chen Chuanren)

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the State Department has approved the sale of 12 Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft to Singapore. The $2.75 billion package—announced on January 9—includes four firm orders and eight options. This will potentially make the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) the sixth F-35B operator, after the U.S. Marine Corps, United Kingdom, Italy, and the planned purchases by Japan and South Korea.

“On April 5, 2019, Mindef submitted a request to purchase F-35Bs from the U.S., to acquire four planes with an option of an additional eight,” said Singapore's Ministry of Defense. “The Congressional Notification [CN] of Singapore’s request of purchase adheres to the formal requirement within the U.S. for possible sale of military equipment to foreign countries. It is routine, and Congress has 30 days to respond to the CN.” Mindef stressed that the CN is not a formal contract of purchase, and formal terms will be negotiated for the letter of offer and acceptance after it is passed.

Also included in the sale are 13 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, unspecified electronic warfare systems, C4I/CNI systems, autonomic logistics global sustainment (ALGS), autonomic logistics information system (ALIS), and F-35 training system, as well as U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support. The U.S. will also provide tanker support for the ferry of the jets to an unidentified training base, although it could likely be MCAS Beaufort, where all F-35B training currently takes place.

In January 2019, Singapore officially announced that it had selected the F-35 to replace its three squadrons of F-16C/D/D+ fighters and provided more details in March, although no mention was made of which variant would be acquired. Taking a more cautious approach in procuring the F-35, it will first be acquiring four jets for evaluation with an option for eight more. The RSAF has never canceled on any program it has embarked on and will likely place more orders once it has made itself comfortable with the platform and its maintenance.