UPDATE 1-Singapore says in 'no particular hurry' to buy Lockheed F-35 jets

Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:39am EST

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WASHINGTON Dec 12 (Reuters) - Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday said his country was considering buying Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jets but was in no rush to replace its F-16s, which were still in good shape.

"Singapore is seriously looking at the F-35s," he told a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"We're in no particular hurry, because our F-16s are still very operational, and they're due for upgrades. But it is a serious consideration," Ng said.

The minister said he saw a demonstration of two F-35 B-models during a visit to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona earlier this week. The B-model takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter.

Lockheed is developing three models of the new Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. military and eight countries that helped fund its development: Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Israel and Japan have also ordered the new radar-evading warplane, and South Korea last month signaled its plans to order 40 of the planes.

Singapore appeared poised to place firm orders earlier this year, but that timetable has slipped somewhat, according to sources close to the F-35 program.

Mike Rein, a spokesman for Lockheed, said the firm was ready to support Singapore's interest in the F-35 and possible upgrades to its F-16s, also built by Lockheed.

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