Royal Thai Air Force plans 19 billion baht for new fighter jets acquisition

Photo courtesy of GISTDA

The commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), Punpakdee Pattanakul, announced a budget request for the upcoming fiscal year totalling 19 billion baht (US$537 million), intended for the acquisition of new fighter jets. These could potentially be the US F-35 or Sweden’s Gripen E/F.

Despite the recently instated government offset policy, Punpakdee’s comments suggest the RTAF’s determination to secure new F-35 jets remains resolute. The offset policy stipulates that any nation supplying Thailand with new military equipment must reciprocate with an equivalent economic evaluation in bilateral trade.

However, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin granted the RTAF discretion in formulating a new fighter jet procurement strategy. To this end, a selection committee has been established to manage the procurement project directly. According to Punpakdee, the committee holds the power to discern which provider offers the best solution to Thailand’s needs.

Punpakdee did not confirm whether the Swedish-made Gripen would be a more likely choice due to potential superior trade benefits. He indicated that reciprocal trade could involve other economic returns, such as financial aid for infrastructure projects. For example, the US has historically offered financial aid to Thailand in various forms, including funding for school construction.

The commander-in-chief also clarified that international politics would not influence the decision on which country to purchase from, asserting that Thailand consistently maintains its neutrality and avoids involvement in conflicts between superpowers, reported Bangkok Post.

Speaking on the Air Force’s familiarity with certain types of fighter jets, Punpakdee said the current fleet includes F-5, F-16 and Gripen aircraft. Any of these models could potentially replace the older fighter jets in the 403 Squadron by 2037, he added.

Punpakdee emphasised the importance of the public’s perception of the fighter procurement plan.

“It is most important that we don’t end up disappointing our people in the Royal Thai Air Force. Or at least the public won’t be disappointed”.

To ensure this, the RTAF is surveying to gather public opinion on the new fighter jet procurement. The responses will be considered during the drafting of the plan, he added.

In related news, PM Srettha faced opposition complaints on the controversial fiscal 2024 budget, emphasising inherited challenges and commitment to improvements.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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