By Thai Newsroom Reporters
THAILAND CURRENTLY has a 50:50 chance of procuring a couple of US-made F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters, commented air force chief ACM Alongkorn Wannarot today (Oct. 7).
ACM Alongkorn said the 50:50 chance of procuring the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II jets would more or less depend on an international political situation surrounding Thailand and the Southeast Asian community as well as world superpowers. The newly-named air force chief did not elaborate, however.
ACM Alongkorn said the air force has planned to buy the first couple of F-35A stealth fighters for a combined price of 7.38 billion baht with the use of its annual budget between fiscal 2023 and 2026.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the US Congress will finally endorse the planned sale of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II jets to Thailand if the US government has approved it in the first place, the air force chief said.
Even if given a final approval from the US lawmakers, the first couple of the F-35s might not be delivered from Lockheed Martin to Thailand until 2032.
The air force has already planned to buy a dozen of the US-made state-of-the-art multirole combat aircraft to meet regional challenges in high-technology air superiority and airborne weapon systems. Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar have reportedly deployed or planned to deploy Russian-built Sukhoi Su-27 and Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker jets.
ACM Alongkorn confirmed that the one-seat, one-engine F-35s can be fitted with weapon systems which the Thai air force currently has in its inventory since, he said, the Lockheed Martin stealth jets would be delivered without any weapon systems installed aboard.
The first phase of the air force’s planned F-35s procurement has been earlier arranged for the first couple of the stealth fighters for a combined price of 7.38 billion baht, followed by a second phase which calls for the procurement of four F-35s for a combined price of 14.62 billion baht during fiscal 2026 and 2028 and a third phase which calls for six F-35s for a combined price of 21.92 billion baht during fiscal 2029 and 2032.
The air force has planned to decommission a few air wings of ageing fighter jets, many of which have been deployed for nearly four decades, and to replace them with the F-35s.
That referred to General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jets currently deployed by Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima and Wing 4 in Nakhon Sawan and Northrop F-5TH Super Tigris jets deployed at Wing 21 in Ubon Ratchathani.
Top: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters. Photo: Lockheed Martin, US Army
Front Page: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters. Photo: Military.com