Singaporean Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen has confirmed that the country will acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 as its next-generation combat aircraft. The minister announced via Twitter that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) have completed a technical evaluation of the fighter and selected the Lightning II as the most suitable platform to replace the F-16. The RSAF will procure a small batch of F-35s initially, before deciding on a full fleet.
While the F-15 airframe is still in its first decade of service the F-16 will be retired after 2030, despite undergoing a mid-life upgrade.
Our F-16s will have to retire soon after 2030. Happy to report that DSTA and @TheRSAF have completed their technical evaluation, and decided that the F-35 would be the most suitable replacement fighter. We will procure a few planes first, before deciding on a full fleet. pic.twitter.com/0GlKlCXT4j
— Ng Eng Hen (@Ng_Eng_Hen) January 18, 2019
It had long been rumoured that Singapore would acquire the F-35. In February 2003, Singapore joined the Joint Strike Fighter programme as a security co-operation participant during the System Design and Development (SDD) phase. Dr Ng Eng Hen also witnessed demonstrations by US Marine Corps F-35Bs in 2013 and was briefed on the aircraft in 2015. However, in the past he had said the RSAF is in no hurry to order the aircraft and was still evaluating it.
The RSAF has always been a very careful and discerning buyer of military platforms, especially new ones. It is no surprise that the RSAF has first observed how air arms around the world operate the Lightning II, how it integrates with current platforms and, importantly, ensured that the manufacturers have ironed out any remaining technical issues.