“The Royal Thai Air Force wants to buy eight F-35 jet fighters, the Lightning II is cheaper than the Gripen E,” said the commander-in-chief of the Service.
Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Commander-in-Chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya said the service would be interested in purchasing eight Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters.
ACM Napadej said the RTAF needs new planes to replace its F-5s and F-16s which have been in service for more than three decades.
According to the Bangkok Post, the F-35 emerged as the better choice given that the costs are lower, at 82 million US dollars (2.7 billion baht) each, compared to 142 million dollars when the model arrived on the walked for the first time.
ACM Napadej said that with the new Saab Gripen E priced at $ 85 million each, Lockheed Martin’s product is not out of reach. Depending on the negotiations, the unit prices of the F-35 can be reduced to just over $ 70 million each, he explained.
He also said budget planning for an F-35 acquisition project will kick off in FY2023 and the RTAF is ready to answer any questions if it chooses to proceed with the purchase.
ACM Napadej explained that the service does not buy weapons but implements security to defend the people and the interests of the nation. He said he was confident that if the public is on the same page as RTAF, they will support the program.
A panel will be set up to study the acquisition of the F-35.
ACM Napadej said the service is also interested in modern air operations, especially those involving the Boeing Loyal Wingman unmanned aerial vehicle, in wartime.
“We don’t need a full fleet of F-35s. We can only use eight to twelve and use drones to fly alongside the piloted plane. This will reduce costs, ”he said.
“If the Air Force has the support of the public, including politicians, and if we can afford it, [the air force] will work to improve and strengthen its air power, ”ACM Napadej said, adding that a proposal will be submitted to Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for consideration when finalized by the Royal Thai Air Force.
According to Alert5, according to the plan, the F-35s would be deployed to Nakhon Ratchasima to replace the F-16s of Wing 1.
Since its establishment in 1913 as one of the first air forces in Asia, the RTAF has engaged in many major and minor conflicts. During the era of the Vietnam War, the RTAF was supplied with aid equipment from the USAF.
Photo credit: US Air Force