Archive for April, 2013

This is a story that just won’t quit.

A few days ago, it was reported by several news agencies – Reuters, for instance, Aviation Week for another – that the Singapore government might be very close to making a decision about acquiring the F-35 as a replacement for the RSAF’s F-16s that were first acquired back in the early 1990s. It shouldn’t be news. The Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had stated during the March 2013 Committee of Supply debate on the defence budget, “I’m telling you we’re now in the final stages of evaluating the F-35. MINDEF will have to be satisfied that this state-of-the-art multi-role fighter meets our long-term needs, is on track to be operationally capable and, most importantly, is a cost-effective platform.”

Colleague Kelvin Wong recently had a commentary on the F-35 decision published in Today. Kelvin is generally positive about the F-35, although he does suggest that the Australian experience with this air combat platform might be an important morality tale for everyone interested in this aircraft.

Here’s the thing about the F-35: it is the SNAFUs and cock-ups in the entire programme that just won’t quit. A recent BBC article chronicles the various problems the programme has had to experience from the very start. As this BBC article ends, “Despite its problems, the F-35 so far appears to have avoided the axe amid the current budget turmoil. The president this week requested $8.4 billion to continue the Joint Strike fighter during the next fiscal year, leaving the aircraft safe – at least for now.” More recently, CNBC called the F-35 the “pricey benchwarming plane”. One study from the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight estimates each aircraft to cost about USD200 million per platform. Even the USAF’s Air Force Magazine editor in chief, Adam Hebert, wrote an editorial in April 2011: “Lies, Damn Lies, and the Trillion-Dollar Plane”. Italy and Norway have either reduced their orders or have temporarily frozen decision-making on this issue. In 2012, Canada announced it was scrapping the F-35. Whichever way you look at it, I just cannot find anything worthwhile about the aircraft.

And this is the aircraft that the Singapore government might be (I stress, might be, not confirmed or definite) buying???


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