The US State Department has approved a sale of up to 12 F-35B aircraft to Singapore, the most expensive version of the jets, estimated to cost $2.75 billion.
The government of Singapore has asked to buy up to 12 F-35Bs - an initial purchase of four, with an option to add eight more - and up to 13 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines for the aircraft, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on Thursday.
The F-35Bs are in service with the US Marine Corps, UK and Italy. Singapore will be the first in Asia to acquire the short take off/vertical landing jets.
The F-35s are expected to eventually replace all of Singapore’s F-16 jets by the 2030s.
The contract also includes maintenance and technical support for the aircraft. The F-35B is the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the Lightning II, which was originally designed for use by the U.S. Marine Corps.
"This proposed sale of F-35s will augment Singapore's operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability," DSCA said in a press release.
In March, Singapore's defense minister said the country intended to buy four U.S.-made F-35 fighter planes. A July State Department report said the U.S. had $7.34 billion in active Foreign Military Sales cases with Singapore's government.
Prices for the F-35 have dropped in recent months, with the F-35B being the most expensive of the program's three aircraft at $115.5 million per plane. The cheapest, the F-35A, is expected to drop to under $80 million per aircraft.
Singapore and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding for the former to set up a fighter jet training detachment in the US Pacific territory of Guam.
According to a US Defense report, it also calls for the construction of hangars, aprons and support facilities at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The training presence will begin around 2029.
The F-35B Short take off vertical landing (STOVL) operation is made possible through an engine that can swivel 90 degrees when in short takeoff/vertical landing mode. The STOVL variant has a smaller internal weapon bay and less internal fuel capacity than the F-35A.