Singapore reveals F-35A ambition


Singapore defence minister Dr Ng Eng Hen confirmed during a parliamentary budget debate on 28 March that the island-state will acquire eight conventional take-off and landing F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters during a parliament budget session on 28 February.

The purchase came on the back of two previous orders for the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant. Singapore had earlier announced the acquisition of an initial four F-35Bs for “evaluation” in 2019 while a second order of eight F-35Bs was announced in 2023.

When the order is fulfilled, Singapore will join Italy, Japan, and the United States in operating both F-35A and F-35B variants.

Dr Ng noted during his address that with 2,500 aircraft delivered or on order, the price of an F-35 today is comparable to an F-15EX, Boeing Defense & Space’s most advanced F-15 variant.

“We will capitalise on this window of opportunity to accelerate our F-35 programme,” he said.

The F-35A variant that I’m announcing today, if Parliament approves our budget, will arrive around 2030,” added Dr Ng. “We may have to deprioritise other projects for this opportunity buy, but we have done our calculations and we think that this is the best time to put in orders for the F-35As.”

Work is underway to prepare the necessary training infrastructure and support for the new aircraft. Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced in June 2021 that it has selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to host the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF’s) F-16C/D as well as its future F-35 training detachments.

The Arkansas National Guard’s Public Affairs Office said in a separate announcement that the RSAF’s fleet of 12 F-16s – which are currently located at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Phoenix, Arizona under the Peace Carvin II programme – is expected to begin arriving in 2023, with its F-35Bs following in 2026.

Ebbing ANGB was shortlisted by the MINDEF and the DoD following feasibility studies that considered factors such as infrastructure, suitability of the training area, and logistics support at three prospective locations. The other locations shortlisted alongside Ebbing ANGB were Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas and Selfridge ANGB in Michigan, with the latter selected as an alternate location.

The US Air Force (USAF) announced in a separate statement that Ebbing ANGB has been designated the primary training centre in the US continent for F-35 aircraft acquired by Foreign Military Sale (FMS) customers, noting that the facility will be able to support up to 36 fighter aircraft

MINDEF stated that the co-location of the RSAF’s F-16s and F-35Bs at Ebbing ANGB will maximise opportunities for integrated training, as well as provide enhanced joint training and exchanges with the F-35s operated by the USAF and the US Marine Corps (USMC)

“Such overseas training is important for the Singapore Armed Forces to overcome local airspace constraints and to conduct high-end realistic training,” said MINDEF in an earlier statement.

Beside the current F-16 training detachment at Luke AFB, the RSAF also maintains an F-15SG training squadron in Mountain Home, Idaho and an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter detachment in Marana, Arizona.

by Jr Ng