The Royal Thai Air Force is exploring the possibility of purchasing four fighter jets to replace F-16 Air Defence Fighter (ADF) jets that were retired last year.
According to a government source, a resolution was reached during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting on a proposal to buy an initial four jets for a squadron of new fighters in the 2023 fiscal year. The new eight-jet squadron is expected to replace the F-16s that were decommissioned from Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima in 2021.
Air force commander-in-chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya said budget planning for the acquisition will begin in the 2023 fiscal year, adding that the air force is prepared to answer any question and clarify all concerns if the purchase is approved.
The air force chief also indicated his interest in the 5th generation F-35 stealth joint strike fighter, noting that it would meet the nation’s needs for greater airpower, which he called an essential part of modern warfare. He added that F-35s would be among the best options due to the price of the Lockheed Martin jets dropping significantly since their initial release.
The move would be consistent with the Air Force’s strengthening strategy of protecting the Kingdom amid escalating regional tensions. Thailand currently has two squadrons of 35-year-old F-16s based in the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima and Nakhon Sawan.
Two committees have already been formed to investigate which fighters should be purchased and how best to acquire them. The first committee is said to be headed by ACM Thanasak Metanan while the second committee will be led by ACM Phanphakdi Phatthanakun. The committee will assess whether the jets are a cost-effective answer in line with the government’s efforts to revitalize the economy, which has been severely impacted by the global pandemic. (NNT)