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The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has unveiled its 2024 White Paper, outlining a comprehensive plan for modernizing its military capabilities. The 74-page document details the acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), missiles, and most importantly, new fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet.

The RTAF has stated its intention to invite bids from various countries, including the United States, China, Russia, and India. 

While India is mentioned as a potential contender, it’s unclear whether they will offer the existing LCA-Tejas Mk1A or the upcoming Tejas MkII. The RTAF already operates F-16s and Gripens, which may influence their decision towards newer, more advanced options. However, India’s potential participation in the bidding process signifies its growing ambitions in the global arms export market.

It’s worth noting that Thailand’s prior purchase of military equipment from China, specifically armoured vehicles, air defence systems, and a submarine, led to the US denying their request for F-35A fighter jets. This raises questions about potential limitations on US participation in the current bid process.

Fighter Jet Procurement:

  • Phase I: The RTAF prioritizes acquiring 12-14 new fighter jets by 2028 to replace its ageing F-16A/B models purchased in 1988.
  • Phase II: An additional 12-14 jets are planned for procurement from 2031 onwards, aiming to replace the even older F-5 fleet.

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