The F-35C stealth fighter is likely to soon appear in Southeast Asia when a rich country and an important US ally “keeps an eye” on it.
The Singapore Air Force may stop pursuing the purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft ordered, and instead be interested in the stealth marine version the F-35C.
The above information is published by the US online publication. The reason is related to the reluctance of the Singaporean authorities to choose the right fighter.
A total of 12 F-35B fighters were ordered by Singapore from the US in 2020 when many experts thought this was an unexpected intention because this version of Lightning II is known for its layout role on aircraft carriers or large amphibious ships.
But with a small territorial context, the Singapore Air Force had the idea of replacing its aging fleet of F-16 fighters with new F-35Bs, their intention was not related to the ambition to build aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships.
The selection of the F-35B is no coincidence as Singapore intends to rebuild its air bases. This small country has expressed its intention to give up bases with long runways. So Singapore responded to the request with a fighter capable of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL). Under the contract, the US must deliver 12 fighter jets on order by 2026 at the latest.
If all goes well, Singapore’s F-35B fleet will reach full combat readiness by 2029, helping the Southeast Asian nation firmly establish its position as a regional leader in air combat capabilities.
Now, however, Singapore is eyeing another fighter jet. Specifically, another version of the F-35 Lightning II could derail the F-35B order. This information comes from a senior official in the Ministry of Defense of the Southeast Asian country.
The source said that an observer from Singapore’s Ministry of Defense went to Japan with the aim of learning some of the bases of the Japanese Air Force and the stations of the US Marines from which the F-35B and F-35C are operated.
Two other observers were sent to the US and Australia, respectively, to familiarize themselves with the same operating procedure, but with the F-35A fighter – this is the conventional take-off and landing version of the F-35 family, but it can also fly STOVL and is an option for Singapore.
But the F-35A’s ability to fly STOVL was still in doubt, as it required additional special conditions and equipment, so this option was quickly dropped to make way for a better candidate.
The most likely thing is that Singapore will replace the F-35B with the F-35C version – this is the variant used on the aircraft carrier, currently only operated by the US Navy and Royal Navy UK and this fighter has not been sold to any other nation.
However, the F-35C has an advantage over members of the F-35 family, which is that it can carry more fuel and has a significantly increased range and weapon payload.
With a much higher combat capability than the F-35B, while still maintaining the ability to take off and land on short runways, the F-35C version is considered to be the best candidate, likely to be accepted by the Singapore Air Force in the near future.