Thailand is prepared to move forward with the purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter fighters and may soon become the second country to do so.
Despite objections from the opposition parties, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Commander-in-Chief ACM Alongkorn Vannarot stated that the service has chosen to purchase two F-35A fighter jets from the United States.
According to the RTAF Chief, the nation is currently waiting for the US Congress to decide whether or not to authorize the sale to Thailand.
He expressed skepticism, though, and acknowledged that he wasn't convinced the US Congress would approve the agreement because of worries over the spread of US stealth technology.
Nevertheless, Thailand anticipates hearing from the US over the F-35 deal between January and July of the following year. When asked if the RTAF had a Plan B for the procurement of fighter jets, ACM Alongkorn responded, "No, we don't. We will decide what to do next if there are any indications of how the US decision on the F-35 sale will go.
The RTAF currently uses a fleet of outdated F-16 Fighting Falcons that will be retired in the upcoming years. The ACM highlighted that one F-35 fighter was equivalent to three F-16 fighter planes, which is why the F-35 stealth fighters were valuable enough to be purchased in place of the F-16 fighter jets, in his opinion.
Although it was previously reported that the US had agreed to send a team to assess the Royal Thai Air Force's (RTAF) capacity to operate and maintain a new generation of fighter jets, the US Congress will ultimately decide the RTAF's future.
ACM Alongkorn also mentioned that the RTAF intends to purchase a number of other types of aircraft in the fiscal year 2023, such as the DA42 surveillance aircraft, which is outfitted with a unique camera that can be used to solve flood problems, 12 T-6C training aircraft, and eight AT-6 aircraft to replace the fleet of outdated L-39 aircraft.
The ACM asserts that the RTAF's procurement plan was thoroughly considered, taking into account the budgetary restrictions that must be effectively managed, and that he is available to respond to any inquiries from the general public or political parties. He claimed that the nation was tightening its purse strings to pay for initiatives thought to be most important, such as fighter jets.
In order to make sure that the Air Force money is used effectively, he remarked, "We are budgeting and cutting spending in other sectors." The decision to purchase the pricey F-35 fighter fighters has become a contentious issue in the nation, and both the political opposition and the Thai people are against it.
The RTAF's proposal for four F-35s for the fiscal year 2023 for $415 million (13.8 billion baht) was approved in principle by the Thai government in January 2022. Former Air Chief Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya justified the proposal by arguing that the RTAF's old fleet of American F-5s and F-16s needed to be replaced.
The RTAF is currently debating purchasing two F-35 fighter aircraft. After making multiple changes to the budget due to a dim economic forecast, Thailand's House Budget Scrutiny Committee approved a budget of 369 million baht ($14.7 million) for the 2023 fiscal year to enable the RTAF to purchase two F-35s.
Thailand is interested in purchasing variant A for standard takeoff and landing. The overall cost of these stealth combat aircraft is estimated to be 7.4 billion baht ($207 million), with payments to be made over a period of four years.
Similar to many other US allies, the RTAF now runs a fleet of F-16 fighter jets, modernized F-5 fighter jets, and JAS-39 Gripens. In order to improve their ground and air-to-air combat capabilities, the Gripens, for example, are currently receiving MS20 configuration upgrades.
However, the RTAF has stayed steadfast in its choice as it considers a combat environment that is future-focused and prioritizes "Quality over Quantity." Thailand's Junta government is modernizing its armed forces while expanding its options to avoid becoming overly reliant on any one nation.
Thailand has also bought submarines, frigates, and tanks from China in addition to purchasing the F-35 from the US. Thailand will follow Singapore as the second East Asian nation to operate stealth fighter fighters if the sale is approved by the US Congress.
Source: AeroTime, eurasiantimes.com