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RTAF Evaluates Options for New Fighter Jets

Our Bureau - : Mar 6, 2024 - : 11:07 pm

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has been assessing its options for acquiring new fighter jets, as outlined in the 2020 Royal Thai Air Force White Paper. The objective is to replace its ageing F-16A/B aircraft with modern equivalents, with a budget spanning fiscal years 2023 to 2028.

In its latest White Paper released on February 29, 2024, the RTAF detailed its plans for the procurement of new fighter jets. This includes the replacement of F-16A/B ADF aircraft for the 102nd Squadron at Korat Air Base and the 403rd Squadron at Takhli Air Base.

The proposed procurement includes acquiring 12 fighter jets over two phases, each involving the replacement of six jets. This procurement aims to address not only the acquisition of aircraft but also training support systems, facilities, and technology transfer for developing Tactical Data Link (TDL) systems and weapon systems.

However, plans to procure 12 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jets from the United States were rejected in May 2023 due to various limitations. Consequently, the procurement program for new fighter jets has been delayed, with plans now set for fiscal year 2025.

The RTAF is considering two potential models for the new fighter jets: the Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen from Sweden and the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70 from the United States. Although Thailand has been operating the JAS 39C/D Gripen since 2011, it remains to be seen whether this will influence the decision to choose Swedish-made fighters for the program.

The decision-making process is ongoing, with factors such as readiness preparation time and technological capabilities being carefully considered. Notably, during Exercise Cope Tiger 2024, a joint air exercise involving Thailand, the United States, and Singapore, the United States Air Force (USAF) brought their F-35A fighter jets to Thailand for training purposes, marking a significant development in military cooperation.

Photo: Alert5, Wikimedia Commons.


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