By Reuters staff, published by Channel NewsAsia
THAILAND’S cabinet has backed a plan to buy four fighter jets starting in the next fiscal year, an air force spokesman said today (Jan. 12), with a budget of 13.8 billion baht (US$413.67 million) set aside for the procurement.
The approval follows a recent expression of interest by the air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya, in procuring eight F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp of the United States.
The cabinet has agreed on the budget for a four-year period starting in the 2023 fiscal year, to replace some of the country’s ageing F-16 jets, air force spokesman, Air Vice-Marshal Prapas Sornchaidee told reporters.
Thailand currently has 12 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets made by Sweden’s Saab and dozens of American F-16 and F-5 jets, some of which have been in operation since the late 1980s.
Napadej last month expressed a preference for the stealthy, fifth-generation F-35 because its price had fallen since it first hit the market.
The first F-35A cost US$221 million in 2007 but as production quantities and know-how increased, the price fell to about US$79 million as of July last year as it gained appeal and buyers in more than a dozen countries.
Spokesman Prapas said the type of aircraft to buy would be decided by two committees tasked with assessing the suitability of different aircraft.
Top: A formation of US Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jets perform aerial manoeuvres as part of a combat power exercise over Utah Test and Training Range, Utah, US, Nov. 19, 2018. Photo: US Air Force/Staff Sergeant Cory D Payne/Reuters via handout and published by CNA
Home Page: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters. Photo: Lockheed Martin, US Army