Local news

Opposition bloc to hammer Air Force’s plan to purchase unarmed F-35 fighters 


By Thai Newsroom Reporters

THE AIR FORCE’S reported plan to purchase a startup batch of two F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters without weapon systems aboard will likely draw a stern disapproval at parliament, according to an opposition lawmaker. 

Pheu Thai MP Yutthapong Charatsathian said today (May 29) it will be “ultimately unusual” for the air force to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multirole fighters without armament available since all combat aircraft are literally designed to constantly arm themselves with weapon systems even in peacetime.

One cannot help wondering what is the use of unarmed combat aircraft which the air force has planned to buy for 78 million dollars each, Yutthapong said. The purchase money for the F-35 jets will be requested as part of the air force’s 2023 budget.

The single-seat, single-engine F-35 jet is basically equipped with Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles and Raytheon AIM-120C AMRAAM advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles as well as air-to-surface guided missiles.

The MP said the Pheu Thai-led opposition bloc will very likely vote down the entire 2023 budget bill which is scheduled for House debate early next month, given such ill-defined, highly-questionable procurement plans.

Move Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat confirmed today his opposition party has resolved to vote against the 3.18 trillion baht budget bill, which he described as virtually being “a sickly elephant who has never learned to adapt itself” to the current economic environment.

The 3.18 trillion baht budget will incur some 695 billion baht in budget deficit since the Prayut government has calculated to collect some 2.49 trillion baht in revenues for next fiscal year, thus keeping the government looking for loans and bearing more public debt. 

The government has earlier approved some 13.8 billion baht funding for the planned purchase of four F-35 multirole stealth fighters. Of that total, some 5.3 billion baht budget would be provided for the purchase of the first two F-35s, expected to be based at Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Air force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya earlier said the air force has planned to procure eight to 12 F-35 jets, the process for which could get started in fiscal 2023. 

The air force chief who is scheduled to retire at the end of September earlier commented that the sought-after multirole stealth fighters were primarily designed as a fifth-generation, air-superiority combat aircraft which could get on par with others currently deployed in the Asean community.

That apparently referred to Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker fighters currently deployed by Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia and reportedly ordered by Myanmar. 

The F-35 jets which operate in a conventional takeoff and landing system will terminally replace Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighters currently deployed at Wing 1 in the northeastern province. 


Top: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters. Photo: Lockheed Martin, US Army

Home Page: 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

Also read: Air force to procure 4 F-35 stealth fighters between 2028-2031 at the earliest

Ex-fighter pilot concerned about planned purchase of F-35 stealth fighters

Thailand approves B13.8 billion budget for fighter jets upgrade

Armed forces propose token cut in fiscal 2023 funding

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