Speaking in a press conference at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition yesterday (26 Mar), Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that Malaysia’s ageing combat aircraft are still functioning well and can be used for several more years.

Dr Mahathir said although the jets were purchased a long time ago, their performance was still at the optimum level as they were maintained well.

“Yes, we are interested (in buying new combat aircraft) but it is not time yet. We find the aircraft we bought some time back still can perform well,” he said, when asked if Malaysia plans to replace its ageing fleet.

“We could see this today, the demonstration which involved all these old aircraft, they have been looked after and serviced well and we find, based on their performance, they can last longer,” he added.

S$2 billion for 12 F-35s

In contrast, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament earlier this month that Singapore will be placing an initial order for four state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets from the US.

This is for testing with the option of buying a subsequent eight more, Minister Ng added. He said MINDEF will be issuing a Letter of Request (LOR) to the US regarding the purchase.

“The current unit price of the F-35 ranges from US$90 million (S$122 million) to US$115 million per aircraft, comparable to what we have paid for our F-15SGs,” he revealed.

According to maker Lockheed Martin, the F-35B – the short take-off/vertical landing variant that Singapore is reportedly interested in – costs US$115.5 million (S$156 million).

Hence with 4 F-35B, it will cost about S$624 million altogether for the initial order. If Singapore were to buy a further 8 more later, the total cost for the 12 F-35Bs will be close to S$2 billion.

The F-35 fighter jet is able to evade enemy’s radar and penetrate deep into enemy’s space without detection.

In his speech, Minister Ng also said that President Trump has welcomed Singapore’s plan to buy their F-35s.

“In fact, President Trump wrote to PM Lee last month welcoming Singapore’s plans to acquire the F-35,” he said. “During my meeting with Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan at the Munich Security Conference two weeks ago, he also said that the US was greatly appreciative of Singapore’s decision.”

GST to increase to 9%

Meanwhile, speaking at the opening ceremony of Sengkang General Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital last Sat (23 Mar), PM Lee told Singaporeans that hard choices will have to be made as the Government considers ways to fund future healthcare spending.

He said that healthcare expenditure currently exceeds S$9 billion and is set to rise even further. Eventually, this will be unsustainable, he added.

“In the medium term, we have to find new ways to fund this healthcare spending. But at the same time, we have to think hard about what we must spend on, and which drugs and procedures are cost-effective,” he said.

“Hard choices will need to be made, and I hope we will have the support of Singaporeans in making them.”

One of these hard choices undoubtedly would mean increasing GST to 9%.

Last month in Parliament, Minister Heng Swee Keat already told the MPs that the increase in GST is necessary in light of the needs in healthcare and other areas.

He said the Government has yet to decide on the exact timing of the planned GST hike by 2 percentage points to 9 per cent but added that when the hike kicks in, the Government will provide a transitional support package to help residents cope.

Last year, the government announced that GST is slated to rise from current 7% to 9% some time between 2021 and 2025.

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