Singapore to ensure F-35s safe to operate following Japanese jet crash

File photo of a F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter on a training sortie in Florida, United States. — Reuters pic
File photo of a F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter on a training sortie in Florida, United States. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, April 15 — Singapore’s Defence Ministry (Mindef) said it would ensure that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are “safe to operate” before acquiring it for the republic’s defence needs, in the wake of a Japanese F-35A fighter jet crash on April 9.

The jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a training mission, prompting Japan to ground its fleet of F-35A fighter jets temporarily.

The F-35A is one of three main variants of F-35s — dubbed the world's most advanced fighter jet.

There is also the F-35B variant, designed for short take-off and vertical landings and the F-35C, designed for use off its aircraft carriers.

Reports have suggested that Singapore is particularly interested in buying the F-35B model, which can take off from shorter runways and land like a helicopter.

In response to queries by TODAY asking if the incident would affect Mindef’s decision to purchase new fighter jets, a spokesperson said: “Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces will acquire four F-35 JSFs initially, with an option of a subsequent eight if we decide to proceed.

“This will allow us to conduct a full evaluation of the aircraft’s capabilities and suitability.”

Mindef added that it has a stringent and rigorous evaluation process, and it is closely monitoring accident investigations conducted by the relevant foreign agencies.

“We will ensure that the F-35 JSF meets our requirements, and is safe to operate before acquiring it for our defence needs,” the spokesperson said.

The decision to buy the four F-35 JSFs was announced by defence minister Ng Eng Hen earlier in March.

Then, Ng had said that it was an “opportune time” to put in a request for the F-35 as its price has been falling due to healthy orders from the United States and 10 other countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea.

The Japanese F-35A jet is the first of its kind to have crashed.

The fighter jet went missing at around 7.30pm on Tuesday. It had lost contact 30 minutes after taking off from Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture with three other aircraft, according to news agency AFP.

Japan’s defence minister Takeshi Iwaya said the aircraft sent an “aborting practice” signal and disappeared from radar. — TODAY