Steady and long-term investment in defence ensures the SAF is ready to defend against evolving security threats across the land, sea, air and digital domains. More platforms and capabilities will be added in the next decade as the SAF continues to work towards SAF2040. The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) will exercise the option to acquire eight F-35Bs for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Singapore will be seeking to buy four F-35 short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft for a start, with the option to buy eight more, as part of efforts to build the next-generation Singapore Armed Forces, said Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in 2021.
Singapore joined the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program’s System Design and Development (SDD) Phase, as a Security Co-operation Participant (SCP). It was speculated that Singapore could be buying up to 100 F-35s. In late 2013, Singapore said they were in “no particular hurry” to buy the F-35, and that they were focusing on upgrading their F-16s in the near-term. It was speculated that Singapore has specific interest in acquiring the F-35B STOVL variant due to the use of road bases adjacent to airfields, most shorter than 8,000 ft (2,400 m). It was speculated that the F-35B could also prove useful if the Endurance-class ships were converted to landing helicopter docks.
The current unit price of the F-35 ranges from US$90 million (S$121.7 million) to US$115 million, which is comparable to what Singapore paid for its F-15SGs. The total cost of ownership of a fleet of F-35s, including maintenance costs, will also be similar to that of the F-15SGs, and that Mindef will continue to work with the US Department of Defence to optimise the costs. The RSAF and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) have concluded that the air force 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, as the replacement for Singapore’s ageing F-16s.
The F-35 is a single-seat fighter jet that comes in three variants: A, B and C. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is acquiring the F-35B, which can perform short take-offs and land vertically like a helicopter. This provides important operational flexibility given Singapore’s land scarcity. The F-35A is the most common variant, designed for conventional take-off and landing, while the F-35C is designed to operate with aircraft carriers. Singapore is one of four countries in the Indo-Pacific region to acquire F-35s, along with Australia, Japan and South Korea. It reported last December that Thailand has also expressed interest in having at least 12 F-35As.