By Thai Newsroom Reporters
THE THAI AIR FORCE will manage to install its own weapon systems aboard US-made F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters which will be procured in the future, according to air force chief-of-staff ACM Panpakdee Pattanakul.
The air force chief-of-staff has confirmed that the air force currently has airborne weapon systems at its disposal and will equip the Lockheed Martin F-35 multirole fighters with them in the years to come. A couple of F-35 jets are being sought as a startup batch to be followed by several others in the future.
ACM Panpakdee did not name a specific type or make of the air force’s airborne weapon systems to be installed aboard the sought-after F-35 Lightning II fighters but confirmed that the air force’s armament will be primarily suitable for such highly manoeuvrable combat aircraft.
ACM Panpakdee declined to comment on the criticism earlier made by Pheu Thai MP Yutthapong Charatsathian that the air force is looking to buy a couple of unarmed F-35 jets. The air force is requesting some 738 million baht as part of its 2023 budget as an initial payment for the two F-35s, which will be purchased for some 2.7 billion baht each.
The opposition lawmaker commented that it will be “ultimately unusual” for the air force to procure the F-35s without accompanying armament since all combat aircraft are literally designed to constantly arm themselves with weapon systems even in peacetime.
But the air force chief-of-staff contended that weapon systems for modern combat aircraft which may be procured today might probably become outdated and poorly fit in the future since it takes several years for these jets to be delivered to the air force.
He assured that the air force will certainly be able to procure airborne weapon systems suitable for the future fighters.
The single-seat, single-engine F-35 jet today 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 Prayut government has earlier approved some 13.8 billion baht in funding for the planned purchase of some F-35 fighters. Of that total, some 5.4 billion baht budget would be provided for the purchase of the startup batch of two F-35s, expected to be deployed by the air force’s Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima in place of the ageing Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.
The air force chief-of-staff said a single F-35 could virtually engage in an airborne combat scenario against three F-16s.
Top: Two F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters flying together. Photo: Heavybomber.com
Home Page: The F-35 Lightning II during a refuelling test near the Patuxent River in Maryland on September 5, 2014. Photo: Layne Laughter/Lockheed Martin and published by Times of Israel