Air force chief pleads with budget panel for THB7.4bn to buy F-35 jets
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) chief on Tuesday asked a House panel vetting the draft budget bill to approve the RTAF’s request for 7.4 billion baht to purchase two F-35A stealth fighter jets.
Air Force Commander-in-Chief Napadej Dhupatemiya was appearing before the budget subcommittee considering procurement projects, after it chopped the jets from the 2023 budget bill last week.
Yutthapong Charassathian, deputy chairman of the panel, complained the air force had not said whether the US Congress has given a green light for Lockheed Martin to sell the stealth fighters to Thailand. The panel also decided the project was not urgent and the money should be used to alleviate people’s economic hardship instead, he added.
On Tuesday, Napadej argued that the RTAF needed the budget allocation first in order to begin formal negotiations with the US government.
The RTAF chief said the purchase would be made as an FMS (foreign military sale), which would be a government-to-government deal that would be transparent without any kickbacks.
“To put it simply, we cannot walk in with empty hands to buy the fighter jets,” Napadej said.
He argued that purchasing the two advanced fighter jets would benefit the nation by boosting security as well as knowledge and technology transfer for RTAF personnel.
Armaments for the two fighter jets would not need to be purchased, he added, as they could use existing air force weapons and would be compatible with weapons purchased in the future.
Napadej said F-16 jets previously purchased by the RTAF have been in service for nearly 40 years. If the purchase of the two F-35As is approved, they would also be used for 35 to 40 years, he added.