F-35 purchase now ruled out

F-35 purchase now ruled out

Time constraints kill pricey jet procurement

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) said its proposed procurement of F-35 fighter jets has fallen through due to time constraints.

AVM Prapas Sonjaidee, an air force spokesman, explained on Thursday what time constraints prevented the US from supplying its fifth-generation fighter jets to the Thai air force.

AVM Prapas said the US requires a minimum of 10 years to process its supply of F-35A jets to a new buying country before delivery.

As part of that, the buying country needs to install specific infrastructure, training and security systems, as the jets are designed with new technical and operational concepts and possess stealth capability, he said.

In addition, he said the logistics, inventory and management systems for F-35A jets differ from those of the F-16 jets, making it impossible for the two types of fighter jets to share infrastructure.

However, he said the US intends to discuss necessary preparations for a future supply of F-35A jets to the RTAF with Thai authorities.

The US has also proposed that the RTAF consider purchasing its 4th-generation fighter jets, namely F-16 Block 70 and F-15 E Strike Eagle fighters, to Thailand, which can be delivered sooner and meet the air force's requirements, AVM Prapas said.

The spokesman insisted on the air force's need to replace its older F-16 jets, which are approaching decommissioning.

On Jan 11, the cabinet approved the RTAF's plan to purchase four F-35A jets starting in the next fiscal year this October with a budget of 13.8 billion baht.

When the request is officially turned down, the air force needs to return the 369.1 million baht or an advance payment of 5% approved by the House of Representatives to the state, said an RTAF source.

According to the source, the RTAF is still considering buying another fleet of Gripen fighter jets from Sweden's Saab AB. The air force had bought a fleet of 12 Gripen fighters which are based at Wing 7 in Surat Thani but lost one in a crash.

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