WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Senior defense officials from Singapore got to see U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighter jets in action on Tuesday at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona as the Asian country mulls buying the Lockheed Martin Corp planes, a base spokeswoman said.
The aircraft flew to Luke Air Force Base, a pilot-training center near Phoenix, from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, which is about 175 miles (280 km) away. Yuma is home to the first operational squadron of F-35 fighter jets, said First Lieutenant Candice Dillitte, a spokeswoman for the Arizona base.
The Singapore officials visited the base as part of Forging Sabre, a Singapore armed forces exercise taking place at Luke and at a nearby training range, according to a news release.
Singapore is considering purchasing F-35s in the future, but has not yet committed to an order or the timetable for when it may come. The U.S. government has already approved a letter of agreement for Singapore’s possible F-35 orders, which had been expected months ago.
One U.S. defense official said Singapore’s desire to see the F-35Bs in action underscored the country’s interest in the new warplane, although it remained unclear when a deal would be signed.
Another source familiar with the process said it was unlikely that Singapore would announce any F-35 orders at the Singapore air show in February.
The Marine Corps operates the F-35 B-model, which takes off from shorter runways but lands like a helicopter.
Luke Air Force Base is due to receive the first of its conventional takeoff and landing F-35 A-model jets in early 2014.