U.S. Air Force inspectors will reportedly visit Thailand to evaluate whether the Royal Thai Air Force is ready to operate and maintain fifth-generation fighter jets.
The U.S. team will examine closely the RTAF’s resources and capabilities as part of the inspection to determine if they can support the purchase of advanced stealth fighters.
Thailand has been looking closely at fifth-generation aircraft with advanced stealth capabilities, including Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor and possibly the F-35 jets, to replace aging F-16 aircraft.
In January, the Cabinet approved a budget of 13.8 billion baht for the purchase of four jets. However, the jets will likely have to be purchased with funds from next year’s budget.
Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor became the world’s first operational 5th-generation fighter in 2005.
With the first 5th-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, stealth was an integral part of its design, which set it apart from its 4th-generation counterparts.
Currently, only the F-22 has super-cruise capabilities within its generation, and as such, it has become a valuable trait but is not a differentiator between generations.
An intercept fighter like the F-22 can super-cruise to close with enemy aircraft at high speeds while still conserving enough fuel for the fight once they arrive.