According to the latest Reuters’ report on Friday (‘U.S. grounds entire F-35 fleet pending engine inspections‘, 4 Jul), the US military has grounded the entire fleet of 97 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth fighter jets after a US Air Force F-35A jet caught fire at a runway in Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on 23 June.
The plane caught fire as a pilot was preparing for takeoff. US Defense Department said they have ordered additional inspections of the F-35 engines.
Last month, one of the F-35s had an in-flight oil leak which also triggered mandatory fleetwide inspections of the jets.
Singapore’s Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Chee Meng has confirmed with US Air Force General Herbert Carlisle, commander of US Pacific Air Forces, that Singapore would procure the expensive F-35B jets.
This was revealed in an interview transcript released by the Defense Writers Group conducted in July last year [Link]. “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,” said General Carlisle.
Each of the F-35 jets is expected to cost at least US$160 million a piece [Link]. A squadron of 12 F-35 jets will at least cost Singapore’s taxpayers US$2 billion.
Speaking to the media on 1 Jul, LG Ng boasted that SAF is now in a position of strength and can hit any moving targets with “one shot, one kill”.
“Today, we can bring lethal firepower at a very short time to hit moving targets – one shot, one kill,” said LG Ng. “This is a capability that few armed forces in the world possess, and we have the capabilities to ensure that we fulfil our mission to protect Singapore.”
He also revealed that SAF is harnessing “new technologies, automation, robotics and unmanned technologies to incorporate them more into our fighting systems so that we can create even more potent fighting capabilities with leaner resources.”
$12.6 Billion Defence Budget
MINDEF was allocated $12.6 billion in this year’s Budget, up 3.2% from $12.3 billion last year. It is more than a fifth of total government expenditure for this financial year. In comparison, the government will only be spending about $430 million a year to subsidise premiums in the recently announced MediShield Life (‘Ng wants a bigger warship to carry more helicopters‘).