The F-16s will have to retire soon after 2030 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been identified as the most suitable replacement to maintain the RSAF's capabilities.
Our F-16s will have to retire soon after 2030. Happy to report that DSTA and @TheRSAF have completed their technical evaluation, and decided that the F-35 would be the most suitable replacement fighter. We will procure a few planes first, before deciding on a full fleet. pic.twitter.com/0GlKlCXT4j— Ng Eng Hen (@Ng_Eng_Hen) January 18, 2019
However, the technical evaluation also concluded that the RSAF should first purchase a small number of F-35 JSFs for a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet.
In the next phase, MINDEF will discuss details with relevant parties in the US before confirming its decision to acquire the F-35 JSFs for Singapore's defence capabilities.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Singapore’s selection of the Lockheed F-35 to replace its F-16 fighters is not a surprise, and was indeed widely expected.
However, its decision to buy “a small number of F-35 JSFs for a full evaluation of their capabilities and sustainability” was not, and is a clear demonstration that, like many others, Singapore is not convinced that the F-35 can deliver all that its manufacturer and the Pentagon have promised.
Indeed, its decision to “fly-before-buy” – a process that the Pentagon disregarded for this and other troubled programs – is probably unprecedented for an export sale of combat aircraft in the post-war era.
It will be interesting to see how the Pentagon will react to this unusual condition, what price it will charge for the evaluation batch, and how it will protect the aircraft’s classified aspects during its evaluation by a foreign power that may well not buy more.)