Singapore to buy 8 more F-35B fighter aircraft; FY23’s defence budget to rise by 5.6%: Ng Eng Hen


The key capabilities of the F-35B include: 

  • Stealth capabilities such as radar absorbent material and systems with low observable technology, meaning the F-35Bs are able to evade enemy detection and operate in “contested environments”, Mindef said 
  • Shorter take-off distances and vertical landings, meaning that the aircraft can perform landings on areas smaller than conventional runways. This is important because it offers “operational flexibility given Singapore’s land scarcity”, Mindef added
  • Advanced sensors to “collect analyse and fuse information gathered”, helping the Singapore Armed Forces to detect targets early and engage them before the aircraft is detected

The aircraft is 15.6m long and has a height of 4.36m — about the length and height of a double-decker bus — and a wingspan of 10.7m. 

It has a range of 1,667km and can travel at a maximum speed of about 1.6 times the speed of sound, or about 1,900km/h. 

It has a suite of weapons such as surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles. 


Dr Ng laid out the context that Singapore finds itself in — one where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising US-China tensions are “seminal forces” that will impede, if not unravel, globalisation. 

He said that these changes are bound to affect Singapore, given that external trade makes up three-and-a-half times its gross domestic product (GDP). 

While European Union countries are pledging to spend more on defence in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, closer to home, Asian countries are also increasing their military spending.

For instance, China is estimated to spend in excess of US$270 billion (S$364 billion) on its defence and announced a 7.1 per cent increase last year, while South Korea wants to bump up defence spending by an annual average of 6.8 per cent over the next five years.

“Taken together, Asia’s military spending on the whole has already surpassed Europe’s in 2009 (and) the gap has since widened even further,” Dr Ng said. 

“What will all this lead to? I doubt anyone can be really sure, but without a robust framework to maintain peace, this up-sizing of Asian militaries can spell trouble ahead.” 

Dr Ng said that Mindef and SAF have also been watching the war in Ukraine “very closely”, because it is the only war in which modern, state-on-state warfare has been fought in recent times.

“There are indeed military lessons to be learnt, but more important than military lessons, examples of how the people — ordinary citizens — make the crucial difference, not only in civilian affairs but military, too.”  

For instance, ordinary Ukrainian citizens have repurposed items such as shuttlecocks to attach onto grenades, so that they may be lifted up by commercial drones and dropped in enemy targets with more accuracy. 

Ukraine’s armed forces also relied on its civilians to crowd-source military intelligence though mobile applications. 

“If the war has taught us anything, it must be that weaponry and fighting platforms are important, but ultimately, it is the fighting spirit of the people that will decide if they end up subjugated or sovereign,” Dr Ng said. 

“We Singaporeans must build and have that same spirit and resolve. Our lives and our country will depend on it.” 


Dr Ng noted that some people had pushed for a cut in defence spending. 

“Outside this Parliament, some political personalities did push for reduction — saying that our defence spending is ‘excessive’ and that external threats for us ‘don’t exist’,” he said. 

“To them, I say — never sacrifice a strong defence for Singapore at the altar of political expediency… It may win some votes, but risks losing Singapore in that self-interest.” 

He added that defence is a “long-term business”. For instance, the Singapore Armed Forces’ major systems and platforms take 10 to 15 years to conceptualise, build and integrate into the country’s fighting force. 

Dr Ng also said that there have been fluctuations in defence spending in the last few years due to the Covid-19  pandemic. Moving forward, the spending will smoothen out and keep pace with inflation.

Mindef will strive to keep the growth of Singapore’s defence budget in line with inflation, and it has achieved this target for the past decade at about 4.3 per cent growth each year, he added.

Overall, Mindef’s spending has stabilised at between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“Barring increasing tensions or persistent high inflation where military spending may have to go up, Mindef expects this to be the steady state spending,” Dr Ng said.

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