House panel shoots down air force’s Bt7.4bn request for F-35 jets
A House subcommittee vetting the 2023 budget bill has voted to reject the Royal Thai Air Force’s request for Bt7.4 billion to buy two fighter jets.
Yutthapong Charassathian, deputy chairman of the subpanel on procurement, ICT, state firms and revolving funds, said on Tuesday that the air force had failed to say whether US Congress would approve the sale of two F-35A jets to Thailand.
Yutthapong said the panel found it would take up to 20 months to initiate the purchase. In the meantime, the Bt7.4 billion should be used to help people suffering hardship from the Covid-19 crisis instead, he added.
As a result, the subcommittee voted Monday to reject the request for the budget for the procurement of the two jets, he said.
On July 19, Defence Ministry permanent secretary Gen Worakiat Rattanannon testified to the House budget-vetting committee that the air force has been setting aside funds to procure new fighter jets since the 2018 budget.
Worakiat said that in previous years, the air force did not specify which models it would buy but this year it had identified the two F-35As.
He said normal practice required that an armed force was allocated budget as a backup before it could initiate a purchase order with the US government.
Worakiat added that the air force had a contingency plan in case its budget request was not approved.