RTAF awaits US F-35 decision
The newly appointed Royal Thai Air Force commander says he is not sure whether the United States will agree to sell F-35 fighter jets to the RTAF.
Speaking after chairing an RTAF meeting on Friday, ACM Alongkorn Wannarot said the project was approved by an air force committee and the letter of offer and acceptance was sent to the US.
He said the RTAF is now awaiting a response from the US, expected between January and July.
He said that in the event the US agrees to sell the jets, a letter of recommendation will be arranged.
"However, if the US refuses to sell the fighter jets, it means we have done our best [to procure the jets]," he said. "The RTAF has tried to provide as much information required by the US as possible."
If the US refuses to sell the jets, the RTAF will have to return 369 million baht meant for the purchase to the House committee scrutinising the 2023 budget bill because the funds cannot be reused for other fighter jet purchases.
The RTAF will then set up a committee to consider how to proceed with the procurement goal, ACM Alongkorn said.
Previously, the House panel vetting the 2023 budget bill accepted the air force's appeal and restored 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.
In August, 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 unnecessary in the current security climate, particularly as it has yet to be approved by Congress. The air force lodged an appeal but agreed to have the budget slashed by 50%.
The panel then approved 369 million baht for the scheme, which would ultimately cost about 7.4 billion baht over the next four fiscal years.