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Thailand plans to procure eight American F-35 fighter aircraft to replace F-16.

| 2022

According to information published by the "Bangkok Post" on December 31, 2021, the Air Force of Thailand plans to procure eight American F-35 fighter aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin in the fiscal year 2023.

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Thailand plans to procure eight American F 35 fighter aircraft 925 001 A Royal Thai Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducts tactical flight operations during Cope Tiger 13 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, March 12, 2013. (Picture source Wikimedia)

Royal Thai Air Force Senior Commanding Officers, Air Chief Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya said the budget planning for an F-35 acquisition project will be initiated in the 2023 fiscal year, which started in October, and the air force is prepared to answer all questions if it chooses to press ahead with the purchase.

According to the military balance 2020, the Thai Royal Air Force has a total of 78 fighter aircraft including 1 F-5B Freedom Fighter, 20 F-5E Tiger II, 2 F-5F Tiger II (F-5E/F being upgraded), 1 F-5TH(E) Tiger II, 1 F-5TH(F) Tiger II, 38 F-16A Fighting Falcon, and 15 F-16B Fighting Falcon. The Thai Air force also have 7 Gripen C and 4 Gripen D.

Over the 10-year period (2010 – 2020), the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) allocated budget increases at an average of 4.25 % per year. According to RTAF 20-Year Strategy, the focus of Air Power modernization will be qualitative rather than quantitative, leading to emphasis on capability enhancement of sensors and fire power.

The RTAF White Paper 2020 has set out its procurement priorities for the coming decade, with new transport aircraft, combat search-and-rescue helicopters, and light attack aircraft. The RTAF also plans to add new fighters to replace older aircraft.

One of the service’s key procurement programs is the replacement of its fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The replacement aircraft will need to be compatible with Thailand’s Link T data link system, which the RTAF is in the process of rolling out.

The plans buy new fighter jets to replace older Lockheed Martin F-16s, which have not been upgraded. Twelve F-16A/B air defense fighters followed by a similar number of F-16A/B Block 15s will be replaced in four phases of six new fighters each, which is expected to take place in 2023-2026, 2025-2028, 2028-2031, and 2030-2033.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. American company Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the manufacturing of F-35, with principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

The three variants in the F-35 family include the F-35A F-35B and the F-35C. The F-35A will is stealthy multi-role aircraft, primarily air-to-ground, for the U.S. Air Force to replace the F-16 and A-10 and complement the F22. The F-35B variant is a multi-role strike fighter aircraft to replace the AV-8B and F/A-18A/C/D for the U.S. Marine Corps. The F-35C provides the U.S. Navy with a multi-role, stealthy strike fighter aircraft to complement the F/A-18E/F.

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