US help sought on how to pilot F-35As

US help sought on how to pilot F-35As

An F-35A fighter aircraft takes-off during a presentation at the Swiss Air Force base in Emmen, Switzerland, on March 23, 2022. (File photo: Reuters)
An F-35A fighter aircraft takes-off during a presentation at the Swiss Air Force base in Emmen, Switzerland, on March 23, 2022. (File photo: Reuters)

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has asked its United States counterpart to send experts to provide knowhow on how to operate fighter jets pending US Congressional approval of the sale of F-35As, says RTAF commander ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya.

The US air force has promised to send experts by the end of this year, he said after presiding over a ceremony to present certificates to 33 RTAF personnel who completed the RTAF's pilot training course.

ACM Napadej said some of these pilots are expected to be chosen to fly the F-35A jets in the future.

He also thanked the House panel vetting the 2023 budget bill for accepting the air force's appeal and restoring the requested funds needed to proceed with the acquisition.

It is now up to the US Congress to decide whether to approve the sale of the jets, ACM Napadej said, adding that after he retires as the RTAF commander on Sept 30, he expects his successor to carry on with the F-35A procurement programme.

One of the criteria for choosing his successor is that the next RTAF chief must be able to carry on with any work that remains unfinished, ACM Napadej said.

On Wednesday, the House committee approved 369 million baht out of 738 million baht sought by the RTAF for its planned purchase of two F-35A fighter jets from the US.

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.

The panel deemed it to be an unnecessary in the current climate, particularly as it had yet to be approved by Congress.

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

The House committee approved an allocation of 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.

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