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Air force eyes F-35 stealth jets, ‘vital’ to modern warfare

Air force eyes F-35 stealth jets, ‘vital’ to modern warfare

BANGKOK: The Royal Thai Air Force is eyeing the procurement of eight US-made F-35 stealth jets, the world’s most advanced warplane, to strengthen national defence, said its commander-in-chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya.

By Bangkok Post

Friday 31 December 2021, 09:44AM

The Royal Thai Air Force plans to seek around eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from Lockheed Martin in the fiscal year 2023. Photo: Lockheed Martin via the Bangkok Post

The Royal Thai Air Force plans to seek around eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from Lockheed Martin in the fiscal year 2023. Photo: Lockheed Martin via the Bangkok Post

ACM Napadej said the air force needs a new fleet of fighter jets as the ageing F-5 aircraft have been in service for more than three decades, reports the Bangkok Post.

As aircraft age, maintenance costs and safety risks are likely to increase.

The F-35 jets, manufactured by US defence giant Lockheed Martin, have emerged as the best choice now that costs are lower, down to US$82 million (B2.7 billion) each from $142mn when the model first hit the market, he said.

With the new Swedish-made Saab Gripen priced at $85 million per unit, Lockheed Martin’s product is not out of reach, ACM Napadej said. Depending on negotiations, unit prices of the F-35 can be brought down to just above $70 million each, he said.

ACM Napadej said the budget planning for an F-35 acquisition project will be initiated in the 2023 fiscal year, which started in October, and the air force is prepared to answer all questions if it chooses to press ahead with the purchase.

A panel will be set up to study the aircraft procurement programme to justify the air force’s request for funding, he said.

According to ACM Napadej, the air force is not buying weapons but is implementing security to defend the people and the nation’s interests. He expressed confidence that if the public is on the same page as the air force, it will support the programme.

Given their technological advantages, the F-35 jets will suit the country’s needs to enhance its airpower, a vital part of modern warfare, he said.

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The air force is aware of budget constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, noting that it plans to make the purchases in phases and select high-quality products that come with the transfer of technical know-how.

ACM Napadej said the air force is also interested in modern air operations, especially those involving the Loyal Wingman, an unmanned aerial vehicle, in warfare.

Developed by Australia’s air force and Boeing, it flies in teams with other aircraft to provide support and it can be fitted with a weapons system, he said.

“We don’t require a full fleet of F-35 jets. We may use just eight to 12 and use drones to fly alongside the manned aircraft,” ACM Napadej said.

“This will help save costs. This is relatively new but these technologies are likely to develop fast.”

“If the air force receives support from the public, including politicians, and if we can afford it, [the air force] will move to upgrade and strengthen its airpower,” he said, adding a proposal will be submitted to Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for consideration when it is finalised by the air force.

Under the plan, the new fighter jets would be deployed from the Nakhon Ratchasima-based Wing 1, while F-16 aircraft will replace the F-5 fleet at Wing 21 in Ubon Ratchani.

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Capt B | 02 January 2022 - 16:56:43

,,,they never did find any weapons of mass destruction. Iraq invaded Kuwait because Dick was stealing Iraq's oil, & Dick invaded Iraq to continue stealing their oil & in the process collaborated with the UN. End result---thousands dead.

Capt B | 02 January 2022 - 16:42:57

@PV Don't really see any reason why anybody should believe anything those United Nations scum decide. The UN are the ones that extended Kuwait's border a further 13klms into Iraq, so Vice President Dick Cheney / 51% Director & Shareholder of Halliburton, was no longer guilty of directional drilling into Iraq's oilfields & stealing Iraq's oil.
They never did find any Weapon...

Pooliekev | 02 January 2022 - 14:47:54

Oh they recognise UNCLOS alright. Its just a shame that America doesn't. 

Capt B | 02 January 2022 - 11:04:10

I can only hope that at least 30 F35s are approved & while they're at it, may as well buy a fleet of USA Built Nuclear subs as well. What, with the CC financed Junta to the West, & CC that have failed to recognize the International Law Of The Sea Convention to the East. A strong military is Thailand's best option. 

Pooliekev | 01 January 2022 - 12:34:19

Yes Kurt. We should all travel in F35s. Expensive but standardised. 

Kurt | 31 December 2021 - 11:42:27

Many of the problems with Thai Airways and the Airforce is indeed the not standarised fleets. All 'done' by the same Generals, in airforce and THAI. Total absence of functional/economical/operation thinking. The worse? No learning curve, while it is so clear why they remain in 'splitted up' problems.. Continuing same-same, the stupid 'This is the way we keep doing it here'.

Foot | 31 December 2021 - 11:34:54

Thailand really needs hugely expensive jets. Remember how ill-equipped it was during the last war?  C'mon, people.  This is just another way for the buyers to line their pockets.  Millions are starving but we need those jets.  TIT.

Capricornball | 31 December 2021 - 10:34:13

I think Thailand would be safer if they scrapped the plan for fighter jets, and instead disbanded the RTP and hired an international law enforcement entity. The threat to the safety and security of Thais does not rest with international foes, it rests with the selfish and corrupt powers within.

Fascinated | 31 December 2021 - 10:13:52

the biggest problem with the airforce is that it has no standardised fleet. It needs to settle on one type of fast jet and one COIN type. At present there are 4 types of fast jet. A mixed force of F-16s and Wolverines would be more than adequate - no need for stealth a/c. The F-35 is just willy waggling.


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