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Thailand prepares procurement of new fighter aircraft

The Royal Thai Air Force is planning to procure new fighter aircraft from 2023. Platforms likely to be considered include Lockheed Martin's F-35. (US Air Force)

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has received approval from the government to proceed with its plan to procure new fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16A/B Fighting Falcons.

RTAF spokesperson Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Prapas Sonjaidee told Janes on 12 January that the Thai cabinet has sanctioned the procurement of an initial four aircraft for THB13.8 billion (USD415 million).

The funds will be sourced from Thailand's defence budget over the next four years, he said.

AVM Prapas said the RTAF wants to acquire the most modern and capable fighter aircraft that meets the service's budget and operational requirements. To this end, the service has established two committees that will identify requirements and evaluate platforms including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

“We will select the most appropriate aircraft,” said AVM Prapas. “This might be the F-35 or maybe another platform. However, we want to procure a next-generation fighter aircraft and our procurement committees will assess suitable platforms.”

He added, “This evaluation process will continue over the next year, and in 2023, we will start the process of buying a new fighter aircraft. We will buy four aircraft to begin with.”

In outlining the rationale for the procurement of a new platform, AVM Prapas said the RTAF's F-16s were becoming unsustainable. He also pointed to fighter aircraft procurements across the Asia-Pacific, highlighting Thailand's defence procurement strategy, which is often focused on maintaining balance with regional neighbours.

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