F-35 acquisition not directed at any particular country: Mindef

An F-35A at the Australian International Airshow. The CNN report suggested Singapore's acquisition of F-35 jets carried a message to China.
An F-35A at the Australian International Airshow. The CNN report suggested Singapore's acquisition of F-35 jets carried a message to China. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Move for S'pore's own defence deterrence, it says after CNN report points to China

The acquisition of F-35 fighter jets by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is for Singapore's own defence deterrence and not directed against, or to align itself with, any particular country, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

It was responding yesterday to a recent report by American news outlet CNN which wrote that analysts said Singapore's decision to acquire the F-35 was "indicative of growing concerns within Asia regarding China's regional ambitions".

Published on Thursday last week, the report also suggested that the acquisition carried a message to China as Singapore will become "the fourth American ally" in the Pacific region to own F-35s, after Australia, Japan and South Korea.

The report, titled "The message to China behind Singapore's US F-35 jet plan", had also said that Singapore is a "close and long-time US ally" that "even hosts a US Navy facility".

In a statement, Mindef said that these assertions were erroneous.

"Unlike other Asian countries who have acquired F-35s, Singapore is not a treaty ally of the US," it said.

"While Singapore has allowed United States ships and aircraft usage of some of our military facilities, this is not a reaction to any recent developments. It is a long-standing arrangement dating back to 1990," added Mindef.

Singapore is known as a security partner of the US. The Sembawang-based US Logistics Group Western Pacific provides logistics and maintenance support to US ships in the western Pacific and Indian oceans.

NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY RECENT DEVELOPMENT

Unlike other Asian countries who have acquired F-35s, Singapore is not a treaty ally of the US. While Singapore has allowed United States ships and aircraft usage of some of our military facilities, this is not a reaction to any recent developments. It is a longstanding arrangement dating back to 1990.

MINDEF STATEMENT, referring to erroneous assertions made in the CNN report.

Officials from Singapore and the US said last week that talks to renew the 1990 agreement that grants the US access to military facilities in Singapore are ongoing.

Britain also has a naval repair and logistics support facility in Sembawang.

The CNN report was published after Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's announcement in Parliament on March 1 that Singapore would be seeking to buy four US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for a start, with an option for eight more.

The F-35 - dubbed one of the world's most advanced fighter jets - has been identified as a replacement for Singapore's ageing fleet of F-16s, which face obsolescence beyond 2030.

Dr Ng also told Parliament that Singapore has the endorsement of both the US administration and the Department of Defence for its proposed purchase of the F-35s, but the US Congress must still approve it.

 
 

Mindef also said yesterday that Singapore's defence policies are predicated on "an inclusive security architecture", which is exemplified by the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus.

This group consists of all 10 Asean countries and eight other countries, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'F-35 acquisition not directed at any particular country: Mindef'. Print Edition | Subscribe