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Thai Air Force is Buying Two Advanced F-35 Fighter Jets from U.S. Despite Objections

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Thai Air Force is Buying Two Advanced F-35 Fighter Jets from U.S. Despite Objections

(CTN News) – Thailand is prepared to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter fighters and may soon become the second nation to do so.

Despite objections from the opposition parties, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Commander-in-Chief ACM Alongkorn Vannarot said that the military has chosen to purchase two F-35A fighter planes from the United States.

According to the RTAF Chief, the nation is waiting for the US Congress to decide whether or not to authorize the sale to Thailand.

He expressed skepticism, however, and acknowledged that he wasn’t convinced the US Congress would accept the agreement because of worries over the spread of US stealth technology.

Nevertheless, Thailand anticipates hearing from the US over the F-35 deal between January and July of the following year.

When asked whether the RTAF had a Plan B for procuring fighter jets, ACM Alongkorn said, “No, we don’t. We will decide what to do next if there are any indications of how the US decision on the F-35 sale will go.

The RTAF currently uses a fleet of outdated F-16 Fighting Falcons that will be retired in the next years.

The ACM highlighted that one F-35 fighter was comparable to three F-16 fighter planes, which is why the F-35 stealth fighters were valuable enough to be purchased instead of the F-16 fighter jets, in his opinion.

Although it was previously reported that the US has agreed to send a team to assess the Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF) capacity to operate and maintain a new generation of fighter planes, the US Congress will ultimately determine the RTAF’s future.

ACM Alongkorn also mentioned that the RTAF intends to purchase some other types of aircraft in the fiscal year 2023, such as the DA42 surveillance aircraft, which is outfitted with a unique camera that can be used to solve flood problems, 12 T-6C training aircraft, and eight AT-6 aircraft to replace the fleet of outdated L-39 aircraft.

The ACM asserts that the RTAF’s procurement strategy was thoroughly considered, considering the budgetary restrictions that must be effectively handled, and that he is available to respond to inquiries from the general public or political parties.

He said that the nation was tightening its purse strings to pay for initiatives thought to be most important, such as fighter planes.

To ensure that the Air Force money is used effectively, he remarked, “We are budgeting and cutting spending in other sectors.”

The decision to purchase the pricey F-35 fighter fighters has become a contentious issue in the nation, and both the political opposition and the Thai people are against it.

RTAF Wants To Go Against The Thai Mandate

The RTAF’s proposal for four F-35s for the fiscal year 2023 for $415 million (13.8 billion baht) was approved in principle by the Thai government in January 2022.

Former Air Chief Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya justified the idea by arguing that the RTAF’s old American F-5s and F-16s needed to be replaced. The RTAF is currently debating purchasing two F-35 fighter aircraft.

After making multiple changes to the budget due to a dim economic forecast, Thailand’s House Budget Scrutiny Committee authorized a budget of 369 million baht ($14.7 million) for the 2023 fiscal year to enable the RTAF to purchase two F-35s.

Thailand is interested in purchasing version A for standard takeoff and landing. The overall cost of these stealth combat aircraft is estimated to be 7.4 billion baht ($207 million), with payments to be paid over four years.

Given that the nation is experiencing socio-economic problems, the political opposition and average Thais see this expenditure as wasteful.

Like many other US allies, the RTAF now runs a fleet of F-16 fighter planes, modernized F-5 fighter jets, and JAS-39 Gripens.

To improve their ground and air-to-air combat capabilities, the Gripens, for example, are now receiving MS20 configuration modifications.

However, the RTAF has stayed steadfast in its choice as it considers a future-focused combat environment and prioritizes “Quality over Quantity.”

Thailand’s Junta government is upgrading its armed forces while expanding its choices to avoid becoming too reliant on any nation.

Thailand has also bought submarines, frigates, and tanks from China in addition to purchasing the F-35 from the US.

Thailand will follow Singapore as the second East Asian nation to employ stealth fighter fighters if the US Congress approves the sale.

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