WASHINGTON - The United States government has given the green light for the possible sale of up to a dozen elite stealth fighter jets and related equipment to Singapore for US$2.75 billion (S$3.7 billion), it said on Thursday (Jan 9).
Singapore first announced its plans to buy the F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin Corp to replace its ageing F-16 fleet, which has been in service since 1998, in March last year.
Singapore's purchase of the F-35B jets, a pricier variant that can take off from shorter runways and land vertically, must still be approved by the US Congress, but is expected to pass.
"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," said the Defence Department in a statement announcing the approval of the sale on Thursday.
It said that the proposed sale of F-35s would augment Singapore's operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defence capability.
The F-35s would add to Singapore's effective deterrence to defend its borders and contribute to coalition operations with other allied and partner forces, added the Defence Department.
It said that Singapore requested to buy four F-35Bs with the option to buy eight more of the same aircraft, as well as up to 13 engines, electronic warfare systems and related support and logistics services.
Singapore would be the fourth country in the Asia-Pacific region to own F-35 jets, after Australia, Japan and South Korea.
The F-35B jets cost US$115.5 million a unit, compared to the F-35A model, which has conventional take-off and landing capabilities and a US$89.2 million price tag, according to Lockheed Martin's website.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted that the price of the F-35 jets had been falling steadily over the past decade due to healthy orders when he announced Singapore's request to purchase them during the Ministry of Defence's budget debate in March last year.
He told Parliament then that President Donald Trump had written to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a month prior, welcoming Singapore's plans to buy the F-35s.
US government approves possible sale of F-35 fighter jets to Singapore