WASHINGTON Dec 12 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.