Singapore expected order F-35 fighter jets soon-sources
SINGAPORE-Singapore is in the "final stages of assessment of" the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to upgrade of the air force, a process American sources say should be fast to convert them into orders for more than a dozen of the covert war planes which have been faced with cost overruns and delays.
Singapore, a major business and shipping hub with the best equipped army in Southeast Asia, is expected to submit a "letter of request" soon for the F-35, said two US Government officials who do not have authorization to speak publicly on the matter.
The City State could start the process of buying the aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., in the coming weeks, said one of the officials. Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., makes the engine for the F-35.
An order from Singapore would be good news for the F-35, the Pentagon's largest weapons program, at a time when Washington would be forced to further scale back own F-35 purchases, unless the u.s. Congress manages to stave off 46 billion in extra defense budget cuts which entered into force on 1 March.
Growing concerns about China's military expansion, would also join in an order said Richard Aboulafia at the Teal Group. "Clearly China is an urgent diplomatic and strategic challenge, and purchase of F-35s looks like a sensible response to this pressure."
Singapore's Defence Minister, Ng Eng hen, said on Tuesday the air force "has identified the F-35 as a suitable aircraft for the further modernisation of our fleet fighter".
"Our F-5s are approaching the end of their operational life and our F-16s are on their halfway mark," he said in Parliament. "We are now in the final stage of the evaluation of the F-35."
Ng gave no timetable but said the Defense Department "will have to be satisfied that this state-of-the-art multi-role fighter meets our needs in the long term, is on track to be operational and, most importantly, is a cost effective platform."
Lockheed said it is pleased to support Singapore as an evaluation of the F-35. "We are willing to help the Government of Singapore and the US Administration on the F-35 program," said spokesman Michael Rein.
The sale of F-35 jets to Singapore would be between the two Governments as a "foreign military sales.
Singapore's air force now has 24 F-15SGs, 20 F-16Cs and 40 F-16Ds, 28 F-5Ss and nine F-5Ts, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. It also has 19 AH-64 D Apache helicopters among other assorted aircraft attack.
Industry and US sources said that Singapore is expected to buy up to 75 new rays over time, probably in smaller batches.
The rich island nation of about 5.3 million people plans to S $ 12.3 billion ($ 9.85 billion) spending on defense in the 2013 fiscal year in April, an increase of 4.3 percent over the previous year, the State budget is displayed.
Singapore-is home to a global financial center, the world's second busiest Container Port and large energy operations-the region largest military spender, dwarfism are much larger neighbors Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam.
Behind the planning and budgeting for more than
As Washington turns its economic and security focus on the fast-growing Asian-Pacific region, it is encouraging more exports of weapons such as the F-35 to strengthen ties with allies and shift cuts into its own purchasing programs.
Lockheed, is under a 396 billion program already seven years behind schedule and 70 percent over the initial cost estimates, building three models of the F-35 for the US military and eight international partners that help to finance the development of the aircraft.
The development partners are Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey. But higher costs, delays and budget pressure to reconsider the size of some of their orders and consider alternatives to forced.
Singapore was a small partner in the program in 2003, along with Israel, that so far 19 of the jets ordered it. Japan has also ordered 42 F-35 A-models for the military.
Singapore's F-35 order is expected to take from the Marine Corps ' B-model, which can turn off shorter runways and land like a helicopter, said a source familiar with this variant of the aircraft.
As a result of the City-State small size and limited airspace trains the air force are pilots in the United States and its helicopter pilots in Australia.
Singapore's world's fifth largest importer of conventional weapons in 2008-12, on 4 percent of the global total, India, China, Pakistan and South Korea with a lag, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says. — Reuters
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