Local news

Air Force repeats calls for procurement of F-35A fighters


By Thai Newsroom Reporters

THE THAI AIR FORCE has repeatedly called for the planned purchase of a squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters to get on par with others deployed by neighbouring countries.

Air force spokesman AM Prapat Sonjaidee insisted again today (July 31) that a dozen F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters were needed primarily to meet future challenges in high-technology air superiority and airborne weapon systems which may be procured or currently deployed by Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar. Those apparently refer to Russian-built Sukhoi Su-27 and Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker jets.

AM Prapat said the air force has split up the one-seat, one-engine F-35A procurement plan into three phases, beginning in the upcoming fiscal 2023.

Phase 1 calls for the planned purchase of a couple of F-35As during fiscal 2023 and 2025 for a combined price of 7.38 billion baht, followed by Phase 2 for four F-35As during fiscal 2026 and 2028 for a combined price of 14.62 billion baht and Phase 3 for six F-35As during fiscal 2029 and 2032 for a combined price of 21.92 billion baht.

Nevertheless, the first two of the state-of-the-art, multirole combat aircraft would not be delivered from Lockheed Martin to the Thai air force until 2032, AM Prapat said.

Delays in the planned procurement of the US-built stealth fighters could probably lead to two years behind schedule delivery, according to the air force spokesman.

The air force has planned to decommission a few air wings of fighters currently operable with the sought-after F-35A Lightning II jets to replace ageing ones with some deployed for nearly four decades, AM Prapat said.

He apparently referred to General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jets currently deployed by Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima and Wing 4 in Nakhon Sawan and Northrop F-5TH Super Tigris jets deployed at Wing 21 in Ubon Ratchathani.

His comments were made in response to last week’s event in which a subcommittee under the House Budget Committee has slashed an estimated 30 billion baht in “ill-defined” expenditure plans on varied weapon systems for the army, navy and air force in the face of the country’s sustained economic slumps and disastrous pandemic situation.


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

Front Page: AM Prapat Sonjaidee, left, and an image of a  Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter, right. Photo: Matichon

Also read: Thailand approves B13.8 billion budget for fighter jets upgrade

Air force to arm F-35 fighters with its own weapon systems

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

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

US air force team to evaluate preparations for deployment of F-35 fighters


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