08:09 GMT20 February 2020
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    Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has signed a decree heralding his country's defense cooperation with the US this week; the island city-state of 6 million has expressed "continued interest" in Lockheed Martin’s F-35, according to a Ministry of Communications and Information press release.

    On Tuesday, Lee met with US President Barack Obama in Washington during his official visit to the US to celebrate the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries. Following the meeting, the leaders issued a joint statement that hints at which aircraft Singapore is slated to buy when it modernizes its air force. 

    “As I told the Prime Minister, we welcome Singapore’s interest in purchasing the F-35 aircraft,” President Obama said, as cited in an August 2 White House press release.

    F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
    © REUTERS / US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout
    Singapore has long been looking to pursue next-gen combat capabilities to boost its airspace security. Many defense analysts believe the prosperous city-state off the coast of Malaysia will choose the F-35.

    The city-state, which suffers from a lack of troops, kicked off a massive military modernization program in 2004 to address possible military concerns. According to its government's plans, by 2030 the three branches of the country's military will merge into a unified network.

    The country is hoping to reach the stated goal by adopting a strategic concept known as 'Integrated Knowledge-based Command and Control' (IKC2), which suggests the use of support systems to help commanders to make urgent decisions on the battlefield.

    “In the air, the SAF [Singaporean Armed Forces] will achieve Air Dominance through the coordinated employment of fighters, unmanned air vehicles and airborne surveillance aircraft, which are integrated through real-time knowledge-based systems and networks,” the site of the country's Ministry of Defense reads.

    As of now, Singapore has acquired an Israeli airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) multi-band radar system for surveillance missions and an IAI Heron 1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) for support missions.

    Despite an estimated per-unit cost of around $98 mln, the F-35 has caused security and capability concerns among defense analysts and military officials since the very beginning of the aircraft’s development. The troubles the jet had included engine issues, software failures as well as poor flight capabilities.

    On Wednesday, after months of delays, the F-35A was announced to be duty-ready by the US Air Force.  The agency has requested 43 new planes of the same kind.

    If Singapore moves to buy the jets, it won't be the first time Lockheed Martin will have managed to sell the expensive, questionably reliable F-35A planes to a small, wealthy country with around 6 million people: Denmark has officially agreed to buy 27 F-35A joint-strike fighters to replace its fleet of aging F-16s, according to Defense News. In early May, the Danish government recommended the purchase of 27 F-35A models for 20 bln Danish Kroner, or about $3 bln.

    Related:

    US Air Force F-35 Fifth Generation Jet Reaches Initial Operational Capability
    Worth the Wait? US Air Force’s First F-35 Squadron May Soon Be Combat Ready
    US Navy Pays Out Another $241Mln for F-35 Fighter Jet Electronic Components
    Tags:
    military cooperation, F-35, United States, Singapore
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