By Thai Newsroom Reporters
AN AIR FORCE F-16 Fighting Falcon jet today (Mar.8) crashlanded in Chaiyaphum province with the lone pilot having jettisoned to safety.
The unidentified pilot who ejected himself from the General Dynamics F-16A fighter jet and was safely parachuted onto the ground was conducting a routine exercise when the combat aircraft developed mid-air troubles over Chaturat district of the northeastern province, according to air force spokesman AVM. Prapat Sonjaidee.
Wreckage of the crashing F-16A fighter jet based at Wing 1 in a nearby Nakhon Ratchasima is yet to be thoroughly examined by air force personnel and the cause of the mishap is yet to be investigated, AVM Prapat said.
Air force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya has pushed for the planned procurement of a squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to replace the ageing General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon and Northrop F-5TH Super Tigris fighters currently deployed at various air bases.
The F-16 fighters currently based at Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima and Wing 4 in Nakhon Sawan have been deployed since the past three decades while the F-5 fighters currently based at Wing 21 in Ubon Ratchathani have been put in service since the past five decades.
The sought-after F-35s reportedly join ranks with the fifth-generation of highly manoeuvrable combat aircraft for both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. The Lockheed Martin fighters might be offered for sale in a range of 2.47 to 2.70 billion baht each to the Thai air force, according to ACM Napadej.
The F-35s are currently deployed by the air force, navy and marine corps of the United States.
In January, the Thai government approved some 13.8 billion baht in funding for the air force’s planned purchase of multirole, techno-savvy combat aircraft, preferably referring to the F-35s.
A body part of the F-16 Fighting Falcon jet that crashlanded today. Photos: Naewna