The United States has reportedly advised the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) to consider upgrading its aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets to next-generation F-16s or F-15s. This procurement would be faster than waiting to purchase the highly advanced supersonic stealth F-35A fighter jet, the US has suggested. However, the US has also expressed its intention to discuss any necessary preparations with Thai authorities for providing F-35A jets to the RTAF in the future.
According to a spokesperson, US Ambassador Robert Godec met with the RTAF commander-in-chief to discuss Thailand’s request to acquire F-35A fighters. The RTAF had sent a letter of request for price and availability information regarding F-35A procurement to the Joint United States Military Advisory Group in Thailand (Jusmagthai).
The spokesperson indicated that the RTAF needs to replace its current fleet of F-16s which are due to be decommissioned soon. “A replacement fleet is necessary to maintain Thailand’s combat readiness and air defense capability, which is the RTAF’s main duty,” the spokesperson added.
The F-35A is the latest fifth-generation jet fighter in the US Air Force. Equipped with stealth technology, advanced sensors, an impressive weapon capacity, and extensive range, the F-35A is considered the most lethal, survivable, and connected fighter aircraft ever built, according to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
The US highlighted the need for Thailand and the Thai Air Force to invest in more advanced military infrastructure before the F-35A can be implemented. Designed with new technical and operational concepts, the F-35A possesses stealth capabilities that require the latest military technology. Furthermore, the US requires at least 10 years to process the supply of F-35A jets to a new purchasing country before delivery.
The spokesperson also noted that the logistics, inventory, and management systems for the F-35A jet fighters are distinct from those of the F-16 jets, making it impossible for the two types of fighter jets to share infrastructure. As such, the United States suggested the RTAF consider purchasing its 4.5th-generation fighter jets, namely F-16 and F-15, which can be delivered more promptly and meet the Thai Air Force’s requirements.