March 16, 2004 (by Eric L. Palmer) - Singapore, which plans to upgrade its air force, signed an agreement to become the first Asian participant in Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, with an option to buy the planes starting in 2012.
According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram
, the island-state will invest $50 million in the development phase of the plane, the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program, over five to six years as a security cooperation participant, the country's defense ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
will have insights into the JSF
's development progress and be able to conduct studies for integration of Singapore's requirements," the ministry said.
The city-state's government last year said the F-35 may eventually replace its A-4SU Super Skyhawk and F-5E Tiger jet fighters as it seeks to modernize its air force. The planes will cost as much as $40.5 billion to develop, according to Pentagon documents released in January.
Other nations participating in the program include the U.K., Denmark
, Canada, Norway
, the Netherlands
. Japan, South Korea
have also shown interest in the plane, which may be a candidate to replace existing fighters such as Lockheed Martin's F-16, Bob Trice, senior vice president for corporate development at the company, said last month.