“Not out of reach”: F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets are the most lucrative option for the Royal Thai Air Force

The Royal Thai Air Force is considering purchasing US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets as well as Boeing Loyal Wingman to bolster its national defense.

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is research for a new fighter to replace its aging F-5 and F-16 aircraft, which are nearing the end of their lifespan.

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Many countries are looking to purchase stealth fighters to bolster their defenses as contemporary warfare evolves. After Switzerland, Finland recently announcement the purchase of 64 F-35A fighter jets at $ 9.5 billion to replace its aging fighter jets.

The F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Commander-in-Chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya said the service needed new fighters since the F-5s and F-16s had been in service for more than three decades, resulting in higher maintenance costs. high and security issues. , reports the Bangkok Post.

The F-35 fighter jets, manufactured by US firm Lockheed Martin, have become an attractive option, now that costs have fallen to $ 82 million (2.7 billion baht) per aircraft, from $ 142 million when the model originally came out, Dhupatemiya added. .

Thailand also has a fleet of Saab Gripen fighter jets. The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) famous the tenth anniversary of the operations of its Gripen fighter fleet at Surat Thani Air Base in early 2021.

With Swedish hunter Gripen costing $ 85 million, Napadej believes Lockheed Martin’s hunter is not out of reach. The price of the F-35 could be reduced to $ 70 million per unit based on negotiations.

Erieye AEW
The “Peace Suvarnabhmmi” project for Thailand saw the delivery of an advanced air defense system that integrated the Gripen and Erieye AEW fighters into a secure, high-speed national data link network. (SAAB)

Funding for the new aircraft is expected to be allocated in fiscal year 2023, which begins in October 2022. A committee will be created to oversee the purchase of new fighter jets.

Napadej stressed that the Thai Air Force not only buys new weapons, but rather ensures the safety of the people and the country. The Air Force plans to acquire the aircraft in phases due to budget constraints caused by the pandemic.

The service is also interested in modern air operations, in particular the Loyal Wingman Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which was jointly developed by the Australian Air Force and Boeing. He stressed that the Air Force does not need an entire fleet of F-35 fighters. They can only operate eight to twelve jets, with drones flying alongside manned planes.

The Air Force will submit a proposal to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense. The F-35 aircraft will be deployed with the 1st Air Wing in Nakhon Ratchasima if allowed, he said.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35 demonstrates America’s best stealth aircraft technology. The F-35’s powerful electronic warfare suite may allow seamless interoperability between alliance users, which Beijing could be concerned about.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft was ordered by four American allies in the region: Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Singapore chose the F-35 to replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16C / D fighters after a rigorous review process.

File Image: F-35-pilot-training-at-Nellis-AFB

The US State Department approved Singapore’s request for 12 F-35Bs in early January 2020, with four confirmed and an option for eight more.

The Singapore Ministry of Defense previously noted in a statement that the F-35s were bought for its own defensive deterrence, not to target or ally with a single country. Singapore further rejected claims that it sided with the United States against China.

“Singapore, unlike other Asian countries that have bought F-35s, is not a treaty ally of the United States. Although Singapore has authorized the use of several of our military installations for US ships and planes, this is not in response to recent developments. It is a long-standing agreement that began in 1990 ”, according to the Ministry of Defense.

File: F-35..jpg - Wikimedia Commons
F-35 – Wikimedia Commons

Japan has earlier order 42 F-35A, and the Japanese government authorized an increase in the purchase to 147 aircraft in December 2018, which would include 42 F-35B Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL).

In July 2020, the US State Department approved the purchase by Japan of 105 F-35 Lightning II joint fighters and related equipment. There are 63 F-35A, 42 F-35B and 110 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines in the authorized package.

Under a $ 6.4 billion contract signed in 2014, South Korea ordered 40 F-35A fighter jets for the Air Force. The country’s arms supply office revealed in 2019 that South Korea launched the second phase of its plan to purchase stealth fighter jets, codenamed FX III, by securing an additional 20 F-35s.

Australia is also in the process of get 72 F-35A fighter jets to replace its F / A-18A / B Hornets. Forty have already arrived, the others should arrive at the end of 2023.

Countries are looking for technology to defend their territorial claims in the face of Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific. According to a report in Chinese state newspaper Global Times, “American F-35’s circle of friends” in region posed no danger, Chinese analysts claim F-35 did not measure up to Chinese stealth fighter fifth generation, the J-20.

It remains to be seen how China will react when U.S. allies in the region begin to fly their F-35s or conduct air patrol exercises.

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