- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

Singapore said it would help fund production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making it the first Asian nation involved in the creation of the next generation of fighter jets.
During a meeting of defense officials in Hawaii Saturday, Singapore and the United States reached a preliminary agreement to allow Singapore to contribute to U.S.-led efforts to build the F-35 in exchange for detailed information on the project.
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. is the main contractor on the F-35, which is under development and scheduled for production beginning in 2008.
Except for its canted twin tails a feature of the long-serving F-18 the F-35 resembles the older but still-capable F-16. It has received worldwide attention to its combination of vertical-takeoff ability and supersonic performance. About 3,000 planes valued at about $50 million each are planned for production.
Details of Singapore's involvement in the F-35 program have not been determined. The country signed a "letter of intent" with the United States, which will allow the two countries to draft a more detailed agreement that would outline, among other things, financial contributions.
Kathy Crawford, spokeswoman for the Joint Strike Fighter program at the Pentagon, said Singapore probably would pay around $50 million for the right to be considered a "Secure Cooperating Participant."
In exchange, Singapore will be updated constantly on the plane's progress and receive more detailed and closely guarded information, but it will not be allowed to sit in on development reviews.
Ms. Crawford said that Singapore is not required to buy any planes, though the country said the F-35 is a potential candidate to meet the needs of Singapore's air force.
"If they're committing to the program, they're probably interested in buying the plane," Ms. Crawford said.
Singapore is not the only country with eyes on the F-35. Israel signed a similar letter of intent last week, and Britain is the major partner on the project, committing hundreds of millions of dollars to the program. Norway, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands also have signed on as partners, and will assist in the plane's construction.
The Pentagon capped the number of full partners last summer, but opened the door for other countries to get involved.
So far, only the United States and Britain have committed to buying any of the planes.
Lockheed Martin, the largest U.S. defense contractor, beat out Boeing to produce the plane in October 2001. The company's contract, the largest defense contract in history, could grow to as much as $1 trillion, depending on how many planes the company sells.
Boeing, Raytheon and British defense contractor BAE Systems are major subcontractors in building the plane.
The F-35 has three designs, each to accommodate the military unit that will be using it.
The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines and Britain's Royal Air Force and Navy are expected to buy the majority of the planes and will have significant influence on the design.


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