US offers to sell next-gen F-15 or F-16 to Thailand in place of F-35A
The United States has offered to sell an older generation of jet fighters after turning down the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)'s request to purchase the F-35A aircraft, RTAF spokesman AVM Prapas Sonjaidee said on Thursday.
He said that the US had suggested the RTAF should consider upgrading its ageing fleet of F-16 fighters to the next-generation F-16s or F-15s.
Procurement of these combat aircraft would be faster than the long wait to purchase the highly advanced supersonic stealth fighter F-35A, the US was quoted as suggesting.
However, the US has expressed its intention to discuss with Thai authorities any necessary preparations for supplying F-35A jets to the RTAF in the future, the spokesman said.
According to him, US Ambassador Robert Godec has met with the RTAF commander-in-chief to discuss Thailand’s request to buy F-35A fighters.
The RTAF had sent a letter of request for price and availability regarding F-35A procurement to the Joint United States Military Advisory Group in Thailand (Jusmagthai), the spokesman said.
He said on Thursday that the RTAF needs to replace its current fleet of F-16s which are to be decommissioned soon.
“A replacement fleet is necessary to maintain Thailand’s combat readiness and air defence capability, which is the RTAF’s main duty,” he added.
The F-35A is the US Air Force's latest fifth-generation jet fighter. With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built, according to its manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
According to the RTAF spokesman, the US pointed to the need for Thailand and the Thai Air Force to invest in more advanced military infrastructure required for the F-35A, which is designed with new technical and operational concepts and has stealth capability.
Also, the US requires at least 10 years to process its supply of F-35A jets to a new buying country before delivery.
The US also pointed to the fact that the logistics, inventory and management systems for F-35A jet fighters differ from those of the F-16 jets, making it impossible for the two types of fighter jets to share infrastructure, according to the spokesman.
The Americans suggested that the RTAF consider purchasing its 4.5th-generation fighter jets, namely F-16 and F-15, which can be delivered soon and meet the Thai Air Force's requirements, the spokesman said.