SINGAPORE: Glitches in the F-35 will be fixed before the stealth fighter jet is delivered to Singapore, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (Jun 28).
Singapore announced in January that it had identified the F-35 as the replacement for its ageing F-16s. In March, Dr Ng revealed that it would first buy four of the jets for complete testing, with the option of another eight.
Singapore has also put in a Letter of Request to the US government to purchase the F-35s, Dr Ng added, kick-starting the process for US foreign military sales.
But Defense News reported in June that the F-35 continues to be marred by technical glitches that, if left unfixed, could risk pilot safety and the jet’s ability to accomplish its mission.
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These include a distracting “green glow” in the pilot’s helmet-mounted display, and an inability to fully control the jet’s three-dimensional movement following certain manoeuvres.
“The good news is that, that was the reason why we took our time to arrive at a conclusion and to put in our Letter of Request,” Dr Ng said, adding that if Singapore got approval for the F-35s, it was looking at delivery beyond 2030.
“So, that's enough of a runway for technical glitches to be solved.”
He added that Singapore was also watching “very carefully” safety-related developments concerning the jet.
In the wide-ranging interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces Day, Dr Ng also allayed safety concerns over the F-35 following the recent crash in Japan.
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On Apr 9, a Japanese F-35A disappeared from radar while on a training mission over the Pacific. Some wreckage was found in the Pacific Ocean near northern Japan the following day, and in June authorities attributed the crash to a likely cause of pilot disorientation. The pilot died.
“You have instances like (with) the Japan Air Force, and I think we were in touch with the agencies and authorities to have a good analysis,” Dr Ng said.
Dr Ng said most experts have put forward the F-35 as the platform of choice, and given the sheer number of orders from different countries, “it will have to be delivered”.
“The glitches will have to be solved, and will be solved,” he reiterated.
Dr Ng noted that the F-35s have been put into operations, with the US Air Force using them in April to take out ISIS tunnels and weapon caches in Iraq, and the UK’s Royal Air Force flying them in armed reconnaissance missions against ISIS in Syria.
“So, we take that it's a platform we can commit to at this point in time,” he stated.