WASHINGTON, DC: The United States will go through with the sale of up to 12 F-35B fighter jets to Singapore, pending approval by Congress, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency news release on Thursday (Jan 9).
Singapore's request to buy four F-35B fighter jets, with the option of buying eight more, for an estimated cost of US$2.75 billion (S$3.71 billion) has been approved by the State Department, said the agency, adding that it had notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.
The B variant of the F-35 is a more sophisticated version that is able to perform shorter take-offs and land vertically.
"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States," said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
"Singapore is a strategic friend and major security cooperation partner and an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia Pacific region."
Singapore's Ministry of Defence first announced its intention to add the F-35 to its air force fleet in January last year, after identifying it as the "most suitable replacement" for its ageing F-16s.
In March 2019, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed that Singapore would first buy four of the jets for complete testing, with the option of another eight.
The fifth-generation fighter jet boasts some of the latest stealth, networking and sensing capabilities.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency - part of the Department of Defense - said the F-35 stealth fighters will enhance Singapore's ability to "defend its borders and contribute to coalition operations with other allied and partner forces".
It added that the sale "will not alter the basic military balance in the region".
At the Committee of Supply debate in March, Dr Ng said the ministry would issue a Letter of Request to the US regarding the purchase, adding that Singapore had the endorsement of both the US administration and the Department of Defense for the proposed sale.
Safety concerns for the F-35, however, were raised when Japan lost one of its pilots last April, after his F-35 fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Japan's air force said spatial disorientation was the likely cause of the incident.
Defense news reported in June that the F-35 continued to be marred by technical glitches that, if left unfixed, could risk pilot safety and the jet’s ability to accomplish its mission.
Dr Ng nonetheless expressed his confidence in a June interview that the glitches would be fixed before the F-35s are delivered to Singapore.