Thailand

Royal Thai Air Force seeks to buy F-35 jets for at least 18 billion baht

PHOTO: The Royal Thai Air Force is considering buying 8 F-25 jets. (via PxHere)

Citing their ageing fleet and a need to beef up Thailand’s national defence, the Royal Thai Air Force is seeking to buy 8 F-35 stealth jets. The jets, made in the US by Lockheed Martin, are considered to be the most advanced combat aircraft in the world. The price tag? About 21.78 billion baht.

Currently, the air force is flying around in F-5 and F-16 jets – technology from last century as the planes are over 30 years old. Much like humans, planes of a certain age start to require mounting maintenance costs and can pose a safety risk as they deteriorate.

And the air force argues that now is the time to purchase, as prices have dropped since the F-35 first came out and planes can be picked up from Lockheed Martin for about US $82 million, a discount of 42% of their original list price of US $142 million. At 2.7 billion baht each, 8 planes would set Thailand back nearly 22 billion baht.

The Royal Thai Air Force Commander in Chief believes the bulk purchase of jets could be bargained down to just US $70 million each. To justify the spending, a panel will be set up to examine the purchase plans. The funding would come from the budget of the 2023 fiscal year which started last October.

The commander feels that the people of Thailand support this acquisition, as the F-35 jet is not a weapon, but rather security reinforcement. Modern warfare takes place often in the skies and Thailand needs to catch up.

The air force recognises that Covid-19 has eaten a large chunk of budget money, but they believe their rollout payment plan will sufficiently ease financial strains.

Along with the half fleet of F-35 planes, the Royal Thai Air Force is eying Loyal Wingmen – drones that can be equipped with firepower – to flank the fighter jets in battle, saying the drones will save money that might need to be spent on more F-35s when the new tech drones could do the same job.

A proposal will go to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha once all the details of the desired fighter jet purchase have been ironed out.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.