Uncertainty persists over whether the United States will approve the Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF) plan to purchase a fleet of F-35 fighter jets. This is despite the RTAF’s move to ask the commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) to back the procurement plan.
According to an RTAF source, the issue was raised during a meeting last week between ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya and PACAF Commander Gen Ken Wilsbach during the former’s visit to the United States. The two sides also discussed a variety of issues, including regional security, the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and joint efforts to modernize the RTAF.
ACM Napadej was accompanied by a committee charged with overseeing the F-35 procurement project. During the meeting, the Thai military delegation asked Gen Wilsbach to support the plan by encouraging the U.S. government to sell F-35s to Thailand.
The PACAF commander indicated support for the purchase, though he said a number of procedures must be followed. He added that the procurement plan will have to ultimately be considered and approved by the U.S. government and Congress.
On January 11, the Cabinet approved the RTAF’s plan to purchase four US fighter jets beginning in the next fiscal year with a budget of 13.8 billion baht. The RTAF said the purchase of a new fighter jet fleet is needed to strengthen Thailand’s military capabilities and to ensure national security. (NNT)