Singapore To Buy F-35s

One of the two USMC F-35Bs at the Singapore Airshow 2018.

SHAH ALAM: Singapore to buy F-35s. Singapore Defense Ministry today announced that it has identified the F-35 as the most suitable replacement for its fleet of F-16s. It says with the F-16s to be retired soon after 2030 the decision to acquire the F-35 – likely to be concluded within one year – will give the RSAF ample time to prepare for the arrival of the new jet.

It says that it will buy a small batch of F-35s first before deciding on a full fleet later on. It did not say how many or which variants it will be buying.

Two US Marines F-35Bs were on static together with two F-22 (not seen) at Singapore Airshow 2018.

The official release:

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) have completed their technical evaluation to select the next generation fighter to replace its F-16s. The F-16s will have to retire soon after 2030 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been identified as the most suitable replacement to maintain the RSAF’s capabilities.

However, the technical evaluation also concluded that the RSAF 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. In the next phase, MINDEF will discuss details with relevant parties in the US before confirming its decision to acquire the F-35 JSFs for Singapore’s defence capabilities.

One of the two USMC F-35Bs at the Singapore Airshow 2018.

The statement from Dr Ng Eng Hen, the Singapore Defense Minister.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force’s F-16s that were in service since 1998 will have to retire soon after 2030, even after their mid-life upgrades. That’s not very far away, just over 10 years, to acquire their replacement and, just as important, to build the logistic support and train pilots individually and as a fleet to guard our skies.

Happy to report that DSTA Defence Science and Technology Agency and RSAF have completed their technical evaluation for the replacement. It took longer than expected – more than five years – as they had to go through in detail specifications and needs, which they could only do after developmental flight testing of the F-35s was completed in early 2018. They have decided that the F-35 would be the most suitable replacement fighter.

Our agencies will now have to speak to their US counterparts to move the process forward, which may take 9 – 12 months before a decision is made. Even then, we want to procure a few planes first, to fully evaluate the capabilities of the F-35 before deciding on the acquisition of a full fleet. We must prepare well and cater enough time to replace our F-16s.

A pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 “Wake Island Avengers,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conducts the preflight inspection of an F-35B Lightning II on the first day of Red Flag 17-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 10, 2017. USMC picture

Singapore decision on the F-35 was expected, it had been evaluating the JSF since 2004. The delays involving the program is the main reason it had delayed comitting to the stealth fighter until now. Even then it is still cautiously threading ahead not wanting to spend so much for the time being.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2185 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Standard annncemen. They bought 8 F15s initially too…

    Der no other 5th gen western jet but the f35 so this will be multi year buy in batch orders like f15 and f16s.

    Testing is to me codeword to have f35sg. DPM Teo visit Israel recently.

  2. They rich n careful. They plan ahead without make the fleet break down. It will not happen to us interm of $, politic, n mind set. Just hope RMAF get enough jet to secure our sky. We have no $ to buy high end product.

    If use available jet into IT world

    F-35 just like Microsoft Dynamic
    Tyhnoon n Rafale like Sage
    F-18f n gripen like Microsoft AX
    Su-30mkm or Su-35 like SAP
    Others like 3rd party ERP system.

  3. The lesson for us here is budgetary certainty and consistency.

    It will be interesting to see which variant Singapore wants- F-35A, B or I.

    As for retiring Singapore’s F-16s, I believe retiring the oldest airframes will have more to do with the necessary force size than the lifespan of the airframes per se. It is not likely that the RSAF will need to retain that many F-16s considering the large numbers of advanced F-35, -15SG and -16Vs that it has/will have.

    On the other hand, I expect many F-16s to be retained and even further upgraded to serve well beyond 2030. The platform is more than sufficient for many tasks, especially in a permissive environment that the F-35 and F-15 will have no problem delivering.

    Breakdown on the age of Singapore’s F-16s here.

  4. It’s their pattern.
    When SG bought F-16, initially they bought a small number F-16A/B (donated to RTAF already in exchanged of training area). Later when the F-16 reach block 52 then they bought a large number.

  5. In the mean time, RMAF wants to evaluate Tejas. Our defence planner need to think 20 years ahead and not 10 years back. No good news is coming from our defence news portal. Sigh

  6. As I have said. SG being one of the developmental partner (albeit late coming 2nd tier one), they will certainly buy F-35s. Its just a matter of when and how many. Will their numbers fully replace F-16s? Nope. Even USAF is having problems doing that with the high cost of each plane.

  7. They spend about 4% of their GDP(which our GDP is slightly smaller than theirs) on defence, which 3x higher than us. Good move on their part.

    Some say its the platform package not the platform itself that matters and stealth no longer the only invincible factor.

    We need to have the necessary quantity to do our peace time role which luckily we are still at peace

  8. “Will their numbers fully replace F-16s? Nope. Even USAF is having problems doing that with the high cost of each plane.”

    That is a flawed argument. The US is not the be all end all in terms of expenditure per platform. There are several militaries that do indeed exceed the US in the average cost or quality per platform.

    Have you noticed that Singapore, like Japan and Israel, is cleared to buy very advanced systems but instead spends great sums developing their own just to produce a small number of examples? Over time, they’ve come to spec these systems lavishly too.

    Some countries are just exceptionally rich (Arabs come to mind). Others have small standing forces relative to neighbours (Singapore, Israel) and feel the need to invest in quality. I dare say Japan will be replacing their F-4s with F-35s on a one to one basis. Why not Singapore?

    Despite the US having the world’s largest budget, it simply cannot be expected to match several countries in cost per platform terms. The US has the world’s most diversified military and spreads the budget over more competing areas than anyone else (how many carriers and ICBMs does Singapore have?) It is actively engaged in overseas operations (how much do you think Singapore even spends on border patrol?) and has high personnel costs. Thanks to national service, a pretty high proportion of Singapore’s budget goes into equipment (although in absolute terms, their conscripts are still paid better than our regulars.)

  9. looks like RSAF getting new toys for south china sea disputes. Getting ready for anything.Recently their navy conducted a bilateral exercise with RTN “Singsiam”. If we looked back in history, Thailand wont complain for anybody who wants to use their airspace or any territory to f@#k us. Need more astros & force shield

  10. What the Defence Minister said was the key, buy a few for test, it could be the B variant. Without any doubt, there will be additional “package” from Isreal Industries, What boggle me is, RSAF is retrofitting and yograding their F16 C/D to “V” standard. Why use it mere 10 to 15 yrs?
    IMHO, the test plane could be the OCU base it US and the later batch of block 4 or even the talk of the F model could be the mass purchase.Just like the F16 programme.
    Interestingly , could the B variant, be deploy with the new RSN ST Marine 170 LHD?
    That would be an answer to the closure of Paya Lebar Airbase.

  11. I would like to caution everyone in the malaysian defence sector not to do any kneejerk reaction to this news. This is just a very preliminary decision of something that is to be procured post 2030. For TUDM we have plenty of other priorities such as the MPA, LCA/LIFT and MKM overhauls that we need to address 1st before even starting to look at future MRCA requirements.

  12. sorry my bad,its block 3F not F variant. Isit mere coincidence that the B model was at the Singapore airshow last year? i doubt so. imho that the bulk of the force still would remain with the F15sg and the F16Vs. at least for next 20yrs to come.

  13. Dont care wat singapore buys…the best next thing to buy is not LCA fighters it takes at least 4 years to be operational n familiar with all the ground equipment if rmaf buys new bird….instead strengthen ur land forces….with howitzer..astros…n mid n hi range anti air craft even if it means its not network centric…preapare ur coastal defence wit wat money can buy…

  14. Some surplus t72 from Poland with upgrade to pt91 standard maybe around 200 chassis, some VL Mica or Umkhomto system and add another 30 more M109A5 on top of the 30 ordered and an additional RM1b from petronas may just do the trick…

  15. The procurement period is actually 2020 to 2030.

    Local saying it will be mix of f35a and f35b.

  16. I have said few years back…things will change once the dragon breath fire…but no not everybody agrees…now its wat malaysia needs to do is strenghten its border especially the northen side…history have proven it during WW2.N some of us folks think beach assault is a thing of the past…no not to china.wat else to prepare..malaysia is way way back wards in their preparedness for all out war…they never want to look at their neighbours doing…eg vietnam..pinoy…burmar…indonesia…these country ar preparing for an all out war in the near future.dan kta lgi heboh tenteng nak beli apa…ini tak kena itu tak kena….in war sampan pon akan d pakai utk perang…my 2 cents.

  17. @AM
    While there are some countries whose defence budget per GDP does exceed USA, and there are selected allies that receives newer (if that is your definition of better quality) weapons system, these circumstances rarely do intersect. The only country that has the financial resources that can do a 1to1 replacement of their fighters now would probably be Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, and other ME countries, yet they not necessarily are granted access to buy the latest techs which not yet being into to US arsenal. Those who can get such access (UK, Israel, SG, Japan, Korea, EU countries, etc) are finding the cost to replace their legacy fighters on a 1to1 basis too high. Of course, with the longer shelf life of these 5th gen planes (30-40 years) and IF its still being produced and IF nothing more advanced comes up (ie UAV), over time their fighters count can be replenished back to the numbers they had with the legacy planes. But there are so many ifs involved and I can’t tell the future, so I will leave it as being doubtful.

    Some already are being honest that replacing 1to1 isn’t viable and most of them are relying on the advanced & extended capabilities of 5th gen planes to do a 1to2or3 legacy fighter replacement basis. BUT this argument goes out the window once they are facing superior numbers of 5th gen adversaries.

    As for Japan, wasn’t the F-16s and F-15s were supposed to be replacements of F-4s? What I understand, the Phantoms have been dwindled and relegated to reservists. If the F-35s were to be replacing something, it should have been the F-16s.

    And as for why not SG? For the simple reason of soon facing manpower shortages in next decade. They are already an aging society with high migration and lower birthrates than before. They are not looking towards doing 1to1 replacement of their legacy planes due to this and of course: cost. Its also another reason why they are sinking money into US and Israel autonomous warmachines; land vehicles, ships, and planes.

  18. @Kamal
    With crude oil prices on a downward spiral despite the winter seasons supposedly be the high demand period, is it wise to raid Petronas kitty? What about their future and expansions?

    Ahh, who am I kidding. This is synonymous with Madey’s 1st reign so why should I expect anything to change in his 2nd reign?

  19. SG is one of many investor in F-35 project so it is obvious SG will buy F-35. Indonesian is investor in KFX/IFX project, they will produce locally.
    Both nations have vision, they do the best they can to meet their defence need..

    ATM should stick to the need and plan. MPA, MRSS, nuri replacement, UAV are basic needs. If those basic needs are not met so there shouldnt any big dream.

  20. Dear Joe..

    Let’s agree to disagree.. If you look at Petronas 2018 financial statement There is more than Rm100 billion of cash and cash equivalent not including RM40 billion in account receivable. Vaseb on uts worst year where sales based on usd40 per barrel it still doing sales in excess of rm80 billion per annum. And latest check crude is on the up again but may stabilise between Usd 55 to usd60 per barrel.

    Off course people say but don’t ransack petronas, save it for a rainy day. Fine, but when the mgmt of petronas started to invest overseas at a cost of Usd20 billion for a gas project in Canada that one should wonder where their emphasise are when the country needing money.

    At usd40 per barrel the mgmt of petronas still make money but they just don’t get the 5 month bonus they used too.

    Plus, why should petronas too concern about coming out more money for defense? At the end of the day the jets, the LCS that will be funded will be used to defend the 40 existing off shore rigs in eez plus potential few million square kilometres of eez with potential but unproven fossil reserves.(funny 15 years ago petronas said in its annual report our oil reserves is only for next 15 years but 15 years late same wording is there)

  21. @ romeo

    We already had our nuri replacement. It was the EC725 H225M or whatever its name is right now. Just that its numbers are not sufficient to replace all the nuris. Our neighbours has been steadily buying more and more H225Ms. I have put out an idea on how to cost effectively increase our H225 numbers, but the ball is in TUDM and Mindefs court.

    Generally I agree with you that we need to sort out our basic needs 1st before even looking at stuff such as new MRCAs.

  22. FYI, SG defence budget is around 3.4% of GDP, not 4%.

    IMHO, there are more relevant priorities than dick comparing with the envied southern island; the guerilla insurgency in the Philippines doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon, and there is great potential for it to spill over into Msian soil.

    Enforcing the borders and rooting out insurgent nests threatening the economic activity and continued development of East Malaysia is critically important.

    Improving the capabilities of the army w.r.t. “peer threats” should not be ignored, I agree, but focused on strategic and defensive areas, particularly in asymmetric solutions

    My 2 sen.

  23. @romeo
    I agree with you,but we should ignore the 5th gen planes threat. Then again, rushing to get our own MRCA is fools errant, as everybody else is moving towards 5th gen while we are hankering for 4.5gen planes. SG had always have a 10-15 year technological and capability gap to us and I see this as their way of keeping ahead of the pack. Indo had always have the larger numbers due to their defense expenditure per GDP higher than us. The MRCA can wait for 5th gen tech to mature and more players in the market. Meanwhile we need to acquire the capability to counter that threat via better AA systems that can detect and neutralise approaching 5th gen planes, though I’m not sure if the newly bought Forceshield is capable of this.

  24. @Kamal
    Okay I will agree to disagree on that. Keep in view that USD$50-55 per barrel was what the previous administration had foreseen when they did the budget and that with the support from GST. Now that GST has been replaced with lesser SST, the current administration will have to look at other income revenue, namely Petronas. So to ask Petronas to fund for littoral defence is premature, because it will have to fund other priorities. As for the Canada venture, I would say its based on their business case, same reason why they went to Indo, Vietnam, and others. As a senior statesman once said; ‘in business you win some and lose some. Its unfair to blame anyone or any entity for the losses.’

    Back on topic, if Petronas were to fund anything related, it should be to beef up security on their ships traversing pirate hotspots (Africa, Indo, Philippines) and those on the offshore rigs & supply ships.

  25. @ Joe Are you kidding? We canot find enough pilots for mere 70 to 100 F35s? & we canot afford the cost? Lol. We can see this way. The F35 will boost the defend of peninsula My and Sg.

  26. joe “As for Japan, wasn’t the F-16s and F-15s were supposed to be replacements of F-4s? What I understand, the Phantoms have been dwindled and relegated to reservists. If the F-35s were to be replacing something, it should have been the F-16s.”

    The F-15s and F2s might have replaced all the F-4s if the Cold War had not ended. You’re confusing affordability with necessity. The current force structure was sufficient relative to the Russian and Chinese until this decade.

    joe “And as for why not SG? For the simple reason of soon facing manpower shortages in next decade. They are already an aging society with high migration and lower birthrates than before. They are not looking towards doing 1to1 replacement of their legacy planes due to this and of course: cost. Its also another reason why they are sinking money into US and Israel autonomous warmachines; land vehicles, ships, and planes.”

    Tomahawk is right, you must be joking that Singapore cannot find pilots. But for the sake of your argument, the F-35 is single seat and the majority of Singapore’s F-16s are two seat D models. The same number of F-35s would in fact reduce crew needs.

    You might want to know that Singapore operates more F-16s than it did A-4SUs, and more F-15SGs than F-5s.

    Autonomous vehicles are capable of performing some simple tasks, but standing in for fighters and handling your air superiority and air defence are a long way off. If a country desires a highly competitive air force, it will still require manned fighters to bridge the gap.

    Btw, an autonomous air vehicle only saves on the pilot. It requires the same support and logistics crew on the ground.

  27. I would not look down on autonomous vehicle tech. 10 years ago, we wouldn’t dreamed of self driving cars, but this is a reality now. Even now USN is trialing X-47 UAVs and if this system can be improved to a satisfactory level, and I have no doubts it eventually will, plus putting their expensively trained pilots out of harms way much like current drone pilots, they will get it deployed in numbers like the Predator/Reaper fleets.

  28. “I would not look down on autonomous vehicle tech. 10 years ago, we wouldn’t dreamed of self driving cars, but this is a reality now. ”

    Of course, though air forces need their fifth generation fighters now. They don’t have the luxury of waiting for those to mature. In the mean time, AI will likely be fielded into fighters before human pilots are removed from them.

    But I wasn’t downplaying AI systems, just responding to your original point that RSAF will cutting on F-35s in favour of unmanned systems, of all things, because of a manpower shortage.

  29. Re: F-35
    A downsize in overall SAF has been factored into the MOD’s plans. It is unlikely the Air Force will be unaffected. That being said I feel certain the SAF will “die die” keep the necessary numbers of aircraft etc as they are potent force multipliers, in keeping with their doctrine all this while.

    Most likely I expect SAF to phase in ~60 F-35s at least to gradually replace the F-16s, then buying the future US FA-XX to replace their F-15SGs.

    BTW, RIP Mr Aloysius

  30. Since money is an issue and we still need QRA activity especially near sabah and sarawak water, IMHO in the next 5 years while awaiting sufficient fund for MRCA/LCA let’s reactivate both the MIG and F5.

    A)though expensive to operate at approximately RM15 mil per aircraft a year, the opex cost of Mig still much cheaper than Euro Fighter Tranche 1 of RM45 mil per aircraft. This is using Austria costing example. F5 WOULD BE MUCH CHEAPER


    atleast it will not overstretch TUDM existing air assets and only for interim measure

  31. @ kamal

    The MiGs although has plenty of hours left in the airframe, all of them needs an overhaul to continue flying, same situation as our MKMs.

    How much would it cost? Recently Bulgaria has allocated USD47 million to overhaul 8 of its MiG-29. So that would be a benchmark. Do also note Canada had just bought 25 used Hornets for USD68 million.

    Anyway news for today. Laos is looking to buy J-10C as a follow up to its buy of Yak-130. Looks like most of our neighbours in asean is buying new fighters. Latest was Myanmar’s order of Sukhoi Su -30SM.

  32. Not sure wer my coment. RSN had completed all 8 LMVs. Now RSN will fokus on JMMS lhds to replace endurance class and new frigets to replace Victory class. Rumor tho say ter will be 4 more lmv replace minesweeper.

  33. Tomahawk: Don’t forget the Type 218SG replacing the Challenger class. 4 on order with delivery starting next year.

  34. What interesting to note is tat RSN has say the Victory class end life span is 2025! Tat meaning it replacement are coming sooner than expected. It may even be sooner than JMMS. I am looking at the Damen crossover/friget as a possibel design basis. It will carry at least 2 large USVs (guessing it is the ST Marine Venus 16 USV becuz of high ocean/sea states…Protector USV is for litoral/shallow water) on top of space for RHIBs and USVs/helicopter…on top of SSMs, Aster missiles and guns. Like the RSN LMV, it will be quite unique or strange friget.Together with the LMV, “improved Formidable”, Type 218SG subs and JMMS LHD, RSN can form powerful naval task forces to support FPDA and protect SG.

  35. Interesting to see a different approach taken by SG and indonesian. As reported RSN looking at “new formidable” which is stress on UAV capability while TNI AL future frigate (iver huitfeldt as the front runner) which is a multirole frigate (due to stanflex system) with AAW capability.

    On other news, looks like not everyone is fond of F-35. The German picks euro typhoon over F-35.

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