The island city-state hasn’t given any indication of when it may want to complete the process of buying F-35s, but the US is encouraging them to make the purchase. At a White House media conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, US President Barack Obama said in his opening remarks, "We welcome Singapore’s interest in purchasing the F-35 aircraft."
Singapore formally submitted a "letter of request" to the US in December 2014, seeking information on how to purchase the jets, and followed up in 2015 by indicating that they preferred the most advanced model of the F-35, the F-35B. The F-35B was designed for the Marine Corps and has been ordered by Italy and the United Kingdom. The craft is intended for vertical landings on unmaintained airstrips and short take-offs.
Earlier this year, the US decided that if Singapore purchased F-35s, they would allow them integrate a proprietary data link and radio system into the crafts. Foreign partners have committed to buying 612 of the jets, while the Pentagon intends to purchase 2,443 for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Finland, Spain, Belgium, and Poland are considering the acquisition of F-35s.
Richard Aboulafia, military aircraft analyst for the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia, said that Singapore has "been uncertain on the F-35 for years," and that, "As a 'security cooperation partner' they were never as fully committed as the primary partners. They have a large and very new fleet of F-16s and F-15s, and the threats they face don’t really call for a plane in the F-35 class" so "any F-35 sale to Singapore was viewed as a relatively long-term proposition."
Singapore’s ministry of defense said in a statement, "as a small country with no strategic depth, Singapore will always need superior air capabilities to protect its interests and borders," noting that the country’s defense minister said in a 2013 statement, "our current fleet of fighter aircraft are adequate for our defense needs and the F-35 is still under evaluation."