RSAF in talks with US Defence Department on training location for next-generation F-35B

The Singapore Armed Forces expects to take delivery of four F-35B fighter aircraft in 2026. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Discussions with the United States on possible training locations for the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) next-generation F-35B Joint Strike Fighters are ongoing, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Thursday (July 23).

The ministry was responding to media queries on US reports earlier this week that the RSAF was eyeing a new location in the US to host both its F-35B and F-16 fighters. Five locations in five US states were reported to be in the running.

Mindef reiterated that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) expects to take delivery of four F-35B fighter aircraft in 2026. All four will be deployed in the continental US for training and in-depth evaluation.

"Discussions on possible training locations are ongoing with the US Department of Defence," said Mindef, noting that overseas training allows the SAF to overcome local air space constraints and to conduct high-end realistic training.

"The Ministry of Defence and the SAF will carefully evaluate the options to ensure that the eventual location can meet our needs," it added.

The reports in the US earlier this week said that US Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett had signed a memorandum on July 6 for a permanent foreign military sales training centre in the continental US that could host both Singapore's F-16 and its future F-35s.

A US Air Force spokesman was quoted as saying in the Defence News website on Wednesday that the centre could accommodate up to 36 F-35 aircraft.

The five locations being considered are Fort Smith Airport (in Arkansas), Hulman Field (Indiana), Buckley Air Force Base (Colorado), Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland (Texas), and Selfridge Air National Guard Base (Michigan).

The spokesman added that the co-location of Singapore's F-16s with its future F-35s at this new location was to make room for more US Air Force or its partner air forces' F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

The Arizona base currently hosts the RSAF's Peace Carvin II detachment, which operates the F-16s. The RSAF has two other detachments in the US, one operating the F-15SG fighters and the other, Apache helicopters.

Another fighter training detachment at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam is expected to be established by 2029.

The new F-35s will replace the RSAF's F-16s, which will be progressively retired post-2030. Mindef has said previously that it will evaluate the F-35s fully before deciding to commit to a further eight aircraft.

There was speculation previously that Singapore's F-35Bs will be located at one of the US Marine Corps bases, as the Marines are also operating the F-35B variant which has short take-off and vertical landing capabilities, unlike the F-35A.

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