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Straight up: Singapore to gain supersonic STOVL capabilities with F-35B confirmation order

Singapore's A330 MRTT conducts air-to-air refuelling operations to extend the endurance of participating fighter aircraft, including F-35s, at Exercise โ€˜Pitch Black' 2022. (Ministry of Defence, Singapore)

Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen confirmed during a parliamentary address in February 2023 that the country will exercise an option to purchase eight more F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft. This is in addition to the acquisition of four airframesit announced in 2019.

The F-35Bs will replace the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) ageing fleet of F-16s, which will progressively be drawn out of service upon reaching obsolescence in the mid-2030s.

The decision to procure eight more airframes confirms the F-35B as the RSAF's next-generation workhorse, which will work alongside the service's fleet of F-15SG fighter aircraft.

More notably, it represents a new capability for the serviceโ€“short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL). This would allow the RSAF to deploy these fighter aircraft from short runways and vessels with a through-deck design.

With this confirmation, Singapore will soon be the first Southeast Asian country to be equipped with the F-35 JSF family of fighter aircraft, and one of only a few regional services to operate the type alongside Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

Equipped with a lift fan and a rotating engine nozzle, the F-35B variant has been conceived specifically to fulfil at-sea expeditionary strike requirements for the US Marine Corps (USMC) and the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). The aircraft is designed to operate from small aircraft carriers such as HMS Queen Elizabeth and amphibious assault ships like the America class.

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