Air force beefs up its unmanned vehicle units

Air force beefs up its unmanned vehicle units

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) plans to create two squadrons of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the first of their kind in Thailand, pending budget approval.

Air Force Commander ACM Tritos Sonchaeng said the squadrons will be based at Wing 4 in Nakhon Sawan, which is currently made up of four squadrons of Lead-in jet fighters, F-16 fighter jets, and Arava patrol aircraft.

The proposal comes amid reports the air force is about to decommission the fleet of three Arava patrol aircraft purchased from Israel 36 years ago.

Typically the Arava planes need to be upgraded every three years. Speaking on the Arava patrol aircraft, ACM Tritos said they have served the air force well.

Squadron 402 and 404 of the wing will be turned into squadrons for the UAVs.

An air force source said the UAV units will be deployed once the Arava planes have been removed.

According to the source, the RTAF currently has some UAVs in service but the exact number is unknown. Some of the UAVs were purchased from abroad and some were developed locally by the air force.

Meanwhile, the RTAF has received permission from the cabinet to proceed with the modernisation, known as mid-life update (MLU), of the last batch of F-16 aircraft worth 9 billion baht. So far six F-16 jets have been upgraded and six are still being upgraded.

The MLU scheme is designed to increase the jets' life span for 20 more years and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. The RTAF has 18 F-16 jets. ACM Tritos said the RTAF has asked the air force-sponsored Thai Aviation Industries Co, and Lockheed Martin to undertake the modernisation of the F-16 jets.

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