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Thailand seeks full squadron of F-35s by 2034

The Royal Thai Air Force has sent a letter to the US government asking for the procurement of Lockheed Martin F-35A fifth-generation fighters. Acquisition of the aircraft could prompt the RTAF to retire old fighter types in service, such as Northrop F-5s and Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs. (US Air Force/Captain Kip Sumner)

Thailand has expressed an interest in having at least 12 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in service by 2034.

A source in the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has told Janes that these numbers include an initial batch of two F-35As that the RTAF is hoping to acquire between 2026 and 2027. The source added that the RTAF has sent a letter to the US government asking for the procurement of this initial batch. “The letter was sent in September 2021,” the source said.

Janes has learnt that the potential procurement has been divided into three phases. During Phase 2 of the acquisition, the RTAF said it seeks to acquire four F-35s. The RTAF hopes to acquire the final batch of six F-35s by 2032.

The RTAF sees the acquisition of the F-35s as being linked to the retirement of older combat jets in service. Janes was told that the RTAF plans to retire all Northrop F-5E/F/T/TH and Lockheed Martin F-16A/B Block 15s by 2032 “depending on the situation and maintenance”.

Based on previous RTAF disclosures, it is seeking to replace two squadrons of F-16A/Bs with the single squadron of F-35s. However, Janes assesses the RTAF also faces the prospect of having to retire three additional combat squadrons in the next decade if additional and more modern fighter aircraft are not acquired. According to Janes World Air Forces

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