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RTAF plan to procure F-16A/B replacement delayed

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) inducted its first Lockheed Martin F-16A/B aircraft in 1988. The fleet was subject to a mid-life upgrade (MLU) from 2012. (US Department of Defense)

The Royal Thai Air Force's (RTAF's) plan to procure a replacement fighter aircraft for its ageing Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fleet has been delayed.

Thailand seeks to decommission its 49-strong F-16A/B fleet by 2028. In its 2020 White Paper, the RTAF envisaged procuring 12 new fighter aircraft between 2023 and 2028, to be followed by another 12 aircraft in 2028–33. The RTAF was to proceed with its procurement plan in 2023. However, on 4 October Air Chief Marshal Punpakdee Pattanakul, commander in chief of the RTAF, said the procurement plan was on hold due to the Thai government's focus on economic improvement policies.

The RTAF spokesperson, Air Vice-Marshal Prapas Sonjaidee, told Janes that a new procurement plan will be introduced in 2024–25 to ensure that the new aircraft can be commissioned in time before an initial number of F-16s are phased out in 2028.

The RTAF is currently “in the process of revising its project requirements and conditions”, he said.

AVM Prapas added that the “new fleet of aircraft” is likely to “initiate operations … within the next 10 years”. Janes assesses that this is due to the timeframe required to induct the new aircraft. Depending on the type of aircraft procured, this could also entail the time required for training, integration, and the setting up of sustainment/support for the new fleet.

During his address on 4 October, ACM Punpakdee stated that one squadron of F-16A/Bs at Nakhon Ratchasima airbase will initially be decommissioned on schedule in 2028. According to Janes

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