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Singapore signs on to JSF Program

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.

"Singapore 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, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan 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.