The Thai Government has shelved its go-ahead decision for the purchase of 50 ex-German air force Alpha Jets, to meet the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) trainer/light strike requirement.

Prime minister and defence minister Chuan Leekpai now says more time is needed to consider the procurement, which may be too much of a strain on the national budget. The aircraft are cheap at 1 million baht ($27,000) each, but they each require about 50-60 million baht of reconditioning work to make them airworthy.

Germany has set an end-of-July deadline for a go-ahead, of the highly controversial purchase.

A defence ministry panel was expected to submit a purchase plan for cabinet approval on 20 July, but failed to do so. Chuan now says that procurement committee reports must first be studied to ensure the decision would be realistic.

Senior air force officers question the Alpha Jets' age and capabilities, with others suggesting they will be expensive to maintain.

Source: Flight International