F35 fighter jets head RTAF wish list

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is keen to buy two shiny black F35 fighter jets from the United States. Despite outcry from opposition parties, F35 fighter jets head RTAF’s wish list.

The decision now rests with the US Congress which is yet to confirm whether Thailand is a good enough friend to receive such sought-after toys. The plane’s technology is so secret that only Uncle Sam’s very best buddies will be allowed to play with it.

The F35 is a multi-role fighter with stealth technology. More than a fighter jet, it is a spy plane.

According to ThaiPBSWorld, only seven countries have been allowed to buy the F35 so far: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. No pleading about strong friendship will be able to un-whitewash that list of the US’ most-favoured friends.

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Six more diverse customers are also operating the plane without owning it: Belgium, Israel, Japan, Poland, Singapore and South Korea. Several other countries, including Thailand, have placed orders and are now waiting and seeing.

In 2023, the RTAF plans to procure several other aircraft, such as the DA42 surveillance aircraft, equipped with a camera which can be useful in solving flood problems, 12 T-6C training planes, and 8 AT-6 aircraft to replace the ageing L-39 fleet based at the 41st Air Wing in Chiang Mai Province.

The RTAF is reviewing some programs, such as Phase 7 of the air defence system and the surface-to-air radio system.

Fairchild AU-23 Peacemaker - Wikiwand
Thailand is the only country in the world still operating a fleet of AU-23, developed by the US for the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, Lt-Col Chidpol Uraipong, commander of the 501st fleet at the 5th Air Wing in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, said that the RTAF has been trying to modify and upgrade its ageing fleet of 12 AU-23 planes, developed by the US for the Vietnam War.

He said that he is proud that the fleet in Prachuap Khiri Khan is the only one left in the world that is still functional, adding that he expects it to remain operational for the next 15 years.

In addition to modifying and upgrading ageing planes, he said the RTAF has a plan gradually to replace its flagship fleet of F16 fighter jets with the more advanced F35.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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