Thailand plans to buy F-35 stealth fighter

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is looking for a new type of fighter to replace the aging F-5 and F-16 fighters.

RTAF is considering the acquisition of eight US-made F-35 stealth fighters to strengthen its defense, said Napadej Dhupatemiya, RTAF’s chief commander. The aging F-5 and F-16 aircraft have been in use for over 30 years, so the Air Force needs a new combat fleet. As aircraft age, maintenance costs and safety risks can increase.

He reveals that the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter is an attractive option, and the cost of each aircraft has dropped from $ 142 million when the model was first introduced to $ 82 million. did.

RTAF currently has 12 Swedish Saab Gripen fighters. The new Gripen aircraft costs $ 85 million and Napadege believes that Lockheed Martin fighters are out of reach. He said the price of the F-35 could be reduced to $ 70 million per aircraft, depending on the circumstances of the negotiations. Budget planning for the F-35 Procurement Program will begin in 2023, beginning October this year.

Napadege emphasized that given the technological advantages of the F-35 jet, it would meet the needs of the country to strengthen its air power, which is an integral part of modern warfare. Due to the financial constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, RTAF plans to purchase an aircraft at several stages. Therefore, he said a team would be formed to consider an aircraft acquisition program to justify the Air Force’s funding demands.

RTAF is also interested in a project jointly developed by the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing, the Royal Wingman Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Program. Napaje believes that RTAF does not necessarily have to acquire the entire fleet of F-35 fighters. They may be equipped with 8 to 12 F-35 fighters and only need to fly the F-35 with the Royal Wingman UAV.

RTAF will submit a motion to the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, and if approved, will take steps to upgrade and strengthen its air power. According to RTAF’s plans, the new jet fighter will be deployed to Nakhon Ratchasima’s 1st Air Wing.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter represents the advanced stealth aircraft technology of the United States. Its robust electronic warfare suite enables seamless interoperability between Alliance users.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was ordered from four US allies in the region, including Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Singapore has gone through a rigorous review process and chose the F-35 instead of the F-16C / D fleet.

The US State Department approved the request for 12 Singapore F-35Bs in January 2020, four of which were confirmed. Singapore’s Ministry of Defense previously stated in a statement that the purchase of the F-35 was for its own defense, not for any particular country or ally. Unlike other Asian countries that purchased F-35 fighters, Singapore is not a treaty ally of the United States. Singapore is implementing a long-standing agreement that began in 1990 by allowing US vessels and aircraft to use some of its military installations.

Japan first ordered 42 F-35A aircraft, and in late December 2018, the Japanese government increased purchases to 147 aircraft, including 42 F-35B short-range takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. approved. In July 2020, the US State Department approved the purchase of 105 Japanese F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and related equipment. The approved package includes 63 F-35A, 42 F-35B, and 110 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines.

In 2014, South Korea signed a $ 6.4 billion contract with the United States for 40 F-35A fighters for the Air Force. The national weapons procurement office revealed in 2019 that South Korea has begun the second phase of an additional 20 F-35 stealth fighter acquisition programs.

A procurement program for 72 Australian F-35A fighters is also underway, 40 have already been delivered and the rest are expected to arrive by the end of 2023. The new aircraft will replace the dilapidated F / A-18A / B Hornet fighter.

Faced with the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to the Indo-Pacific region, countries are seeking greater capabilities to defend territorial disputes.

Stephen Shea


Former PLA engineer Stephen Xia specializes in aviation equipment and engineering technology management. After quitting military service, he pursued the development of military equipment around the world.