No F-35 Jets for Thailand, U.S. Offers F-16s, F-15s Instead

  • Bureau
  • 12:41 PM, May 22, 2023
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No F-35 Jets for Thailand, U.S. Offers F-16s, F-15s Instead
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The Pentagon has “unofficially declined” Thailand’s bid to buy stealthy F-35 Lightning II jets, and has instead put F-16 Block 70 and F-15 Eagle fighters on the table, Thai media reported citing sources.

A Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) source told the Bangkok Post that the Pentagon's message was conveyed by U.S. ambassador Robert F Gordec when he called on RTAF Chief ACM Alongkorn Wannarot at Air Force headquarters at Don Mueang two weeks ago.

The ambassador said the U.S. Department of State was of the opinion that the RTAF may not yet be ready in terms of infrastructure facilities for F-35s, especially airbase security, airfields, maintenance, pilots and other personnel, the source said.

It would take a lot of time and a big budget to be fully ready, he said, adding that Washington offered to sell Thailand F-15s and F-16s instead.

The U.S. will reconsider the F-35 offer when the RTAF is ready, “probably in the next five to ten years,” the source said.

The American side is due to give an official reply in July. When the request is officially turned down, the air force would have to return 369.1 million baht (around $10.5 million), an advance payment of 5% approved by the House of Representatives, to the state.

The RTAF is still considering buying another fleet Gripen fighters from Sweden's Saab AB, the source said. The air force earlier bought a squadron of 12 Gripen fighters, which are based at Wing 7 in Surat Thani. It lost one of the Gripen jets in a crash.

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