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The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is to acquire eight Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) to complement the 12 F-35B short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) JSFs Singapore has already ordered.

The additional F-35 order was announced by Singaporean Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on 28 February 2024 during a partiamentary debate on the Singaporean Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef’s) budget and was first reported by The Straits Times.

Singapore ordered four F-35Bs in 2020 and then another eight of the type in 2023. Delivery of the first four F-35Bs is expected in 2026, with the other eight in 2028, said Ng, while the eight F-35As now ordered are due to arrive around 2030.

Explaining the rationale behind the F-35A purchase, Ng stated, “The F-35As are designed for greater endurance; they have the ability to carry payloads of higher capacity. They complement the F-35Bs’ short take-off and vertical landing capability … which provides more operational flexibility [in land-scarce Singapore].”

While Ng did not say how much the eight F-35As will cost, he noted that Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces might have to deprioritise other programmes to make the purchase. “But we have done our calculations, and we think this is the best time to put in the order for F-35As,” he added.

The current ‘flyaway’ cost of an F-35A averages around USD 82.5 million (EUR 75.4 million) across its latest three production lots, compared to around USD 109 million for an F-35B.

The RSAF currently operates a fleet of 60 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52 fighters (20 F-16Cs and 40 F-16Ds) delivered from 1998 and 40 Boeing F-15SG strike fighters delivered from 2009. The F-35s are intended to progressively replace the F-16s.

A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II taxis after arriving at Singapore’s Changi Air Base on 11 February 2022. Around 2030 the RSAF should have its own F-35As. (Photo: USMC)