Singapore will buy another 8 F-35B fighters and increase its fleet to 12.

The Singapore Armed Forces plan to upgrade their training with virtual reality technology and a new digital firing range as part of their 2040 strategy.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will purchase another eight F-35B fighter jets, bringing its fleet of fifth-generation fighters to twelve.

Singapore will receive the eight fighters from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin “by the end of the decade,” Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament.

In 2019, Singapore announced the acquisition of four initial F-35Bs, scheduled for delivery in 2026. According to a US government press release, the purchase had an estimated value of $2.75 billion.

It also contained an option to purchase up to eight additional F-35s in the future. According to Ng, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have opted to take up their option on the F-35B type after careful consideration.

“The Ministry of Defense and the Singapore Armed Forces have concluded that the F-35 is the best option to meet our current and future defense needs,” he told Parliament.

The Ministry of Defense has the highest estimated spending among the ministries for the year 2023, with 17,980 million dollars. This is an increase of 5.6% compared to the 2022 financial year. Almost all the money, some 17,040 million dollars, will go to the Armed Forces.

MINDEF does not give detailed figures for the acquisition costs of Army aircraft, submarines, and platforms, as these may indicate capabilities.

Inflationary pressures, resuming work interrupted by the pandemic, and bolstering the SAF’s (Singapore’s Armed Forces) ability to deal with non-traditional threats were all cited by Ng as reasons for the rise in spending.

Against a background of rising global competitiveness, he warned that the expansion of Asian forces, particularly in Northeast Asia, “may mean difficulties down the road.”

Outside Parliament, however, “some political personalities” have pushed for cuts in defense spending, he said.

“To them, I say: do not sacrifice a strong defense for Singapore on the altar of political expediency. He may win some support but risks losing Singapore in that self-interest.”

“We must never forget that defense is a long-term business. Major systems and platforms take 10-15 years for the SAF to conceptualize, build and integrate into our fighting force.”

Ng also declared that he will spend money on training enhancements, such as realistic virtual reality simulators and a new digital firing range, to turn the SAF into a next-generation defense force by 2040.


Ng also revealed that the FAS’s Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) had already detected cyberattacks since its official creation last October.

“Digital threats in the cyber realm are ubiquitous on a daily basis, literally tens, if not hundreds of thousands.”

“What worries our cyber agencies the most are attacks from outside and orchestrated by non-state and state actors,” such as terrorist organizations, he explained.

“DIS has detected some entities and is monitoring their activities. That’s all I can say,” the minister declared.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIS) was established as the military’s fourth branch to better coordinate responses to emerging security challenges, especially those emanating from the Internet of Things.

For the SAF to function as a “networked” force, it improves C4 (command, control, communications, computers) connectivity and offers accurate, relevant, and timely early warning and operational intelligence.


Following Singapore’s initial purchase of the F-35 in 2020, a team comprised of members of the RSAF and the Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) was given exclusive and reserved user access to information and F-35 facilities to conduct further assessments.

MINDEF stated that its evaluation focused on three key areas: How to take advantage of the F-35’s full suite of capabilities to enhance its operational advantage, how to integrate the F-35 with the rest of the FAS combat systems, and the aircraft engineering and maintenance requirements.

High-fidelity simulations were used as part of the evaluation process, along with training and professional exchanges with other F-35 users. Participation in F-35 conferences, dedicated studies, and in-depth technical conversations with the F-35’s maker and other users were also part of the research process.

In an interview with the media, Colonel Daxson Yap, head of the RSAF’s Air Plans Department, said the air force had had “at least 10” F-35 training and exchange opportunities in recent years.

For example, at last year’s Pitch Black exercise in Darwin, Australia, the RSAF flew alongside US Marine Corps F-35Bs and refueled one of the fighters mid-air.

The team also visited the Lockheed Martin production line in Texas in July of last year, where they attended a training session with US Air Force F-35 instructors, tested an F-35 simulator, and sat in a fired-up F-35.

Explaining how the F-35B will work with the rest of the Singapore Armed Forces’ combat systems, Colonel Yap said the fighter’s individual capabilities would multiply the effectiveness of other aircraft deployed alongside it. In particular, I have described the advanced sensor suite as “revolutionary.”

“In the airfield, combat effectiveness depends on teamwork,” he said. “Where the F-35 excels is not just in its ability to collect, merge and share information, but it really multiples the capabilities of the platforms it operates with.”

In that sense, the high-fidelity simulators were a “very exact replica” of the capabilities of the F-35 platform, which were “best trained, stress-tested, and maximized in simulators,” he said.

Colonel Yap added that the exercise of the option to purchase the eight F-35Bs at this time took advantage of the economies of scale of the current order book and hedge supply chain risks.

Towards the middle of the 2030s, the RSAF’s F-16 aircraft will be retired, and the F-35Bs will replace them. The United States Department of State okayed the sale of $60 million worth of F-16 upgrades to Singapore in 2015.

Asked how many F-35s would be needed to replace the F-16s, Col Yap stated that the RSAF takes a long-term view of defense acquisitions and that any acquisition would have to meet their needs while being prudent and profitable.

The RSAF’s F-16 fleet, which is getting on in years, will be retired around the middle of the 2030s, and the new F-35Bs will take their place. To the tune of $130 million, the United States Secretary of State authorized the sale of upgraded F-16s to Singapore in 2015.


Ng also announced that the Singapore Armed Forces would embark on training enhancements, including an additional 20% of live training to be replaced by simulation training.

As part of the DIS, the current Cyber Test and Evaluation Center will be renovated into a more extensive digital shooting range by 2026.

According to MINDEF, the shooting range will be able to simulate a broader set of sophisticated environments, allowing for realistic training for a growing digital workforce.

It will also allow the Armed Forces to conduct joint training with other national organizations, such as the Cybersecurity Agency (CSA), and organize bilateral and multilateral exercises.

Ng said that the DIS would also establish a Digital Ops-Tech Center run by software engineers and data scientists to provide internal software development for the SAFs. It will be operational from 2024.

SAFTI City’s first phase will be completed that year. There will be more than sixty brand-new structures in the training area, as well as a bus terminal and an underground MRT station.


MINDEF and the Ukrainian Armed Forces have followed the Ukrainian war “very, very closely,” the only one in which a modern state-versus-state war has been waged in recent years, Ng said.

Although there were military lessons to be learned, even more important was to see how “ordinary citizens make a difference.”

Ng cited examples of Ukrainians improvising to block Russian military trucks, donating batteries for drone operations, and providing crowdsourced military intelligence.

“Passion, guts, bravery, innovation, even sheer genius in the face of overwhelming adversity,” he said.

“If war has taught us anything, it must be that weaponry and combat platforms are important, but ultimately it is the people’s fighting spirit that will decide whether they end up subjugated or sovereign.”