BEHIND SCHEDULE AND OVER BUDGET
As Washington turns its economic and security attention to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, it is encouraging more exports of weapons such as the F-35 to strengthen links with allies and offset cuts in its own procurement programmes.
Lockheed, under a $396 billion programme that is already seven years behind schedule and 70 percent over initial cost estimates, is building three variations of the F-35 for the U.S. military and eight international partners that are helping to fund the plane’s development.
The development partners are Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands. But rising costs, delivery delays and budget pressures have forced some to rethink the size of their orders and consider alternatives.
Singapore became a minor partner in the programme in 2003, along with Israel, which has ordered 19 of the jets so far.
Singapore’s F-35 order is expected to include the Marine Corps’ B-model, which can take off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter, said a source familiar with that variation of the plane.
Due to the city-state’s small size and limited air space, its air force trains its fighter pilots in the United States and its helicopter pilots in Australia.
Singapore was the world’s fifth-largest importer of conventional weapons in 2008-2012, at 4 percent of the global total, trailing India, China, Pakistan and South Korea, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says.