RSAF to acquire eight F-35A fighter jets, growing its fleet to 20 F-35s

SINGAPORE – The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will acquire eight F-35A fighter aircraft, complementing the previously announced purchase of 12 F-35Bs, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

This comes as the fifth-generation stealth planes made by United States manufacturer Lockheed Martin have been proven on the battlefield, Dr Ng said during the debate on the Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) budget on Feb 28.

The eight F-35As will arrive around 2030.

The announcement followed Mindef’s 2023 decision to buy eight F-35Bs, after an initial purchase of four F-35Bs in 2020.

The two F-35 variants have different strengths that will bolster the RSAF’s capabilities, Dr Ng told Parliament.

“The F-35As are designed for greater endurance – they have the ability to carry payloads of higher capacity,” he said.

“They complement the F-35Bs’ short take-off and vertical landing capability… which provides more operational flexibility (in land-scarce Singapore).”

Dr Ng noted that over 900 F-35s have flown in operations around the world that included strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the Middle East, and reconnaissance missions to locate and identify surface-to-air missile sites of Russian units in Ukraine.

Its battlefield successes have prompted several more countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, to jump on board the programme, while existing customers such as South Korea, Japan and Britain have placed additional orders.

With close to 2,500 F-35s on order globally, the pipeline is healthy and the price is now more competitive, comparable with Boeing’s F-15EX, he noted.

The F-15EX is an upgraded version of the F-15 fighter, though it is still considered a fourth-generation jet.

While Mindef did not say how much the eight F-35As will cost, figures released by the US indicate that in its latest production lot, each F-35A will cost US$82.5 million (S$111 million), while a single F-35B costs US$109 million.

Dr Ng noted that Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) may have to deprioritise other projects to buy during this window of opportunity. “But we have done our calculations, and we think this is the best time to put in the order for F-35As,” he said.

When the F-35s become operational, they will put the RSAF “in the premier league”, he added.


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