Half budget approved for 2 US F-35 fighters

Half budget approved for 2 US F-35 fighters

The House committee vetting the 2023 budget bill on Wednesday approved 369 million baht out of 738 million baht sought by the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) for its planned purchase of two F-35A fighter jets from the US.

RTAF commander ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya thanked the House panel for accepting the air force's appeal and restoring the requested fund needed to proceed with the acquisition programme.

Earlier, a sub-committee on durable products, state enterprises, ICT equipment and revolving funds decided to exclude the air force's request of 738 million baht from the 2023 spending plan because it was deemed unnecessary and there was no confirmation whether the US Congress would approve the sale.

The air force lodged an appeal but agreed to have the budget slashed by 50%.

"If the US Congress doesn't approve the sale, the air force will return the sum to the state coffers," said ACM Napadej.

The House committee voted 45:22 with one abstention to approve 369 million baht for the scheme which would cost about 7.4 billion baht with funds to be allocated over the next four fiscal years.

It also accepted some appeals against budget cuts made by sub-panels.

Among the requests restored by the main House committee was an allocation of 171 million baht for an ammunition and explosive factory sought by the permanent secretary office of the Defence Ministry; an allocation of 150 million baht sought by the Foreign Ministry; and 105 million baht sought by the Labour Ministry's Department of Skill Development.

Pheu Thai Party MP Yuttapong Charasathien said minority members would raise their objection to the fighter jet purchase programme again during the second and third readings of the budget bill.



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