New chief pledges to cut expenditure
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) will have to tighten its belt and maximise the utilisation of its existing resources, assistant air force chief ACM Alongkorn Vannarot said on Monday.
Speaking at an event to announce progress in the RTAF's transport aircraft upgrades, ACM Alongkorn -- who is due to take the helm at the RTAF on Friday -- said the move is meant to improve the air force's financial situation.
For instance, as the RTAF has successfully upgraded several of its C-130 aircraft, thus extending their operational life by 10 years, the air force will reconsider if it needs to acquire newer transport aircraft.
Starting in October last year, Thai Aviation Industries (TAI) Co began upgrading the air force's C-130 fleet by replacing older components with more modern ones, he said.
So far, eight aircraft have been fitted with new multi-function displays and an updated traffic collision avoidance system, as well as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast systems.
The wings of these aircraft were also strengthened with new upper and lower rainbow fittings, he said, noting that the engines had undergone extensive checks and repairs in previous maintenance work.
These upgrades, along with the additional personnel training required to ensure the air force is able to maintain these aircraft, cost 500 million baht, according to an informed source.
In the next phase of upgrades, scheduled to be carried out during the next fiscal year starting on Oct 1, four more C-130s will be upgraded, said ACM Alongkorn.
ACM Alongkorn denied claims that the efficiency push is meant to facilitate the planned procurement of F-35 fighter jets from the United States, saying the F-35s will be acquired using a different budget.
The air force is known to be attempting to procure four F-35 fighter jets under a 13.8-billion-baht procurement plan that was approved by the cabinet on Jan 11.