Increase of nearly 11% would cover replacement of ageing Airbus and other items
The air force is seeking a budget of 40 billion baht for fiscal 2024, with the extra money needed for essential aircraft upgrades and replacements, the commander-in-chief said on Wednesday.
The fiscal 2023 budget allocation for the Royal Thai Air Force was 36.1 billion baht.
ACM Alongkorn Wannarot said the RTAF needed the 10.8% increase for projects that would take years to implement. This need would not change when the new government takes office after the coming general election.
The air chief said the RTAF needed to replace its Airbus A340-500, which had been in service for 18 years. The plane’s uses included humanitarian missions, such the recent assistance for earthquake victims in Turkey. It was due to be decommissioned in 2026, he said.
“We need a replacement, which will be costly. The procurement will take 3-4 years and I would like the public to understand that this aircraft is essential,” ACM Alongkorn said.
In fiscal 2024 the air force would also have to upgrade the radar system on its Saab 340 airborne early warning aircraft, the chief said.
The plane’s uses had included ensuring the safety of delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bangkok last year. Its radar system was in need of modernisation, ACM Alongkorn said.
He said the plan to buy F-35A combat aircraft from the United States was included in its 2024 budget submission, but this still needed approval by the US congress He expected the answer by July.
The air force was looking at other options, including modern Saab Gripen aircraft, in the event the F-35A deal was not approved, he said.