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Singapore says in 'no particular hurry' to buy Lockheed F-35 jets

Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp's facto
Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp's facto

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday said his country was seriously considering buying Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet but was in "no particular hurry" to buy new jets since its F-16 fighters were still in good shape.

"Singapore is seriously looking at the F-35s to replace our F-16s," the Singapore official told reporters at the Pentagon during a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"We're in no particular hurry, because our F-16s are still very operational, and they're due for upgrades. But it is a serious consideration," Eng Hen said.

The minister said he saw a demonstration of two F-35 B-models operated by the U.S. Marine Corps during a visit to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona earlier this week and described the new aircraft as "quite an engineering marvel." The B-model takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter.

Lockheed is developing three models of the new Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. military and eight countries that helped fund its development: Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Israel and Japan have also ordered the new radar-evading warplane, and South Korea last month signaled its plans to order 40 of the planes.

Singapore has long been interested in the fighter plane, and appeared poised to place firm orders earlier this year, but that timetable has slipped somewhat, according to sources close to the F-35 program.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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