Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Singapore likely to go with F-35B

Well it seems like it is international partner week.  A nice little tidbit of news about Singapore and the F-35.  It appears they're going to go with the B variant:
In a wide-ranging interview with the Defense Writers Group in late July, General Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle was asked about Singapore’s interest in the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and if an initial sale had been made. He had this to say:

“I talked to their CDF (Singapore’s Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Ng) Chee Meng. I was just in Singapore. Singapore’s decided to buy the B model, the VSTOL variant to begin with. But I don’t know where they’re at in putting it into their budget.

I know that’s a decision that’s been made and that’s why they’re part of the program, but I don’t know where they’re at in putting that in the budget” That portion of the interview has mostly escaped the attention of media covering the event as coverage zeroed in on the U.S. Air Force’s plans for the Pacific pivot, which was also discussed at length. If General Carlisle is right, it would mean that Singapore will become the fourth operator of the F-35B, after the United States Marine Corps, the United Kingdom and Italy.
Why the "B"?  Space and tempo:
With the number of available runways in Singapore to be reduced by one, having an air combat asset on hand capable of STOVL operations would assume a greater importance in the mind of Singapore’s defense planners. It will be just one of many factors to consider, but the upgrades to Singapore’s existing fighter bases will likely include building thermally coated “lilypads” that would enable F-35Bs to land vertically without the hot exhaust gases damaging the tarmac.
Strategically, the F-35 seems to be the choice for other reasons:
With Singapore’s strategic limitations in mind, the F-35B would appear to be a very prudent option to consider. A fleet of easily-dispersed STOVL-capable assets capable of taking off fully loaded from a 168m (550ft) runway would ensure that the RSAF would be able to keep up combat air operations even without operational, full length runways in the event of an enemy first strike. Such a capability would certainly complicate any adversary's calculations in attempting a first strike to nullify Singapore's defenses.
And, just as importantly:
Having the United States and Australia, both of whom have close defense ties with Singapore, also planning to operate F-35s in the neighborhood, it would be no surprise if Singapore was keen to follow in their footsteps. Together with Japan’s (and possibly South Korea’s) aircraft, the type’s network-enabled capability and integrated sensor suite is a definite plus for interoperability with allied F-35s in the event of a need to conduct joint operations in the region. 
Makes sense.


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