Thai Air Force still willing to get two F-35 stealth fighters to start with

Thailand continues discussing the possibility to acquire two Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, the country’s media reports echoed by Valius Venckunas in Aero Time. According to an interview with commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Alongkorn Wannarot, published by Thai PBS World news website, discussions regarding the purchase continue.

Follow Air Recognition on Google News at this link

Thai Air Force still willing to get two F 35 stealth fighters to start with Maj. Kristin Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander, performs an aerial maneuver during the Reno Air Races in Reno, Nev., Sept. 19, 2021. The demonstration team is based out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (Picture source: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Nicolas Myers)

Thai PBS World quotes RTAF commander-in-chief Wannarot saying he is not sure if the evaluation of the purchase request by the U.S. Congress will result in approval, all the while oppositional parties within Thailand continue debating the purchase. An earlier report from the Bangkok Post confirms the number of two Lockheed Martin's stealth fighters, indicating that Thailand would then have the world’s smallest fleet of F-35s.

A committee from the United States will visit Thailand to decide if the country’s Air Force is ready to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jet. Thailand expects to pay around $70 million for one F-35, which is less than the publicized cost of the aircraft. However, Valius Venckunas writes, with the mass production of the jet ramping up and its problems being ironed out, the price of the aircraft has been falling steadily in recent years. Nevertheless, while relatively cheap to purchase, the F-35 sports significantly higher maintenance costs than earlier fourth-generation jets.

Thailand announced an intention to procure between 8 and 12 F-35s to supplement and replace ageing F-5 and F-16 fighters in late 2021. so, the purchase of two new aircraft might be a temporary step, Valius Venckunas quotes. Thailand first announced an intention to purchase F-35s in 2021 and supplement the jet with new combat drones, likely implying a type of loyal wingmen.

Currently, Valius Venckunas recalls, the fighter jet fleet of the Royal Thai Air Force consists of the Northrop F-5s that date back to the 1970s, General Dynamics F-16B and C variants acquired in the 1980s, and a small number of SAAB JAS 36 Gripens delivered between 2011-2013.