Singapore is to buy its first squadron of vertical take-offs jets, which consisted of 12 planes, of Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) (see update below). The F-35 is the world’s most expensive conventional weapon system but Lockheed promises the F-35 will be four times more effective than contemporary fighters in air-to-ground combat, three times more effective in reconnaissance and suppression, with better range, improved support, and equal costs. Singapore showed interest in acquring the F-35 since 2003.
The F-35B is short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. It can land vertically and requires a very short runway for takeoffs. However, the F-35B requires a special preparation the airfield surface needs to withstand the extremely hot, very high-velocity engine exhaust of the F-35B that impacts the landing area in a vertical landing.
At just over 50-feet long, the F-35B can reach a speed of Mach 1.6 (1,200 miles per hour) and has a range of up to 1,200 nautical miles. The F-35B can carry 18,000 pounds of weapons. The flyaway cost of about USD$160 Million (or SGD$200 Million) for each F-35B. The conventional F-35 cost around USD$130 Million each.
Last year, April 2012, the British government has confirmed it will revert to the F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter to equip aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy. Under the new plan, the first of class Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier will start sea trials in 2017, with the first F-35B test flights timed for 2018 and an initial operating capability two years later in 2020. The cost of each F-35B is more than £100 Million.
In 2010, Israel agreed to buy 19 F-35 jets for USD$2.75 Billion or about USD$145 Million each.
2013-10 Update: Singapore have decided to purchase 12 units of F-15SG instead of the F-35B and based on past estimates for their 12-plane buys have been around $1.5 billion ($125 million per aircraft + support etc.).