The Thai and US Governments are discussing a deal for 18 used Lockheed Martin F-16s. Thailand could clinch their purchase by next month. A $74.5 million deposit for cancelled Boeing F/A-18s could be used as part payment for the F-16s.
Meanwhile, the Thai Government has cleared plans to buy mothballed Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets from the German air force, but has halved its order.
Thailand's Air Chief Marshal Thananit Niemthan originally proposed to buy 50 stored aircraft to equip two squadrons and meet the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)trainer/light strike aircraft requirement. Thai prime minister and defence minister Chuan Leekpai says the cabinet has approved the purchase of 25 aircraft, for delivery within two years, subject to negotiations with Germany.
The original proposal was controversial in Thailand because of the age of the aircraft and the cost of the procurement during the country's continuing recession (Flight International, 28 July-3 August).
Concerns were also raised that the purchase might affect other defence programmes such as upgrades to 45 Northrop F-5s and 36 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/Bs.
The Alpha Jets were offered at 1 million baht ($27,000) each, with the airframes requiring a further 50-60 million baht of reconditioning work. Chuan says the government will give the RTAF a purchase budget of just over 1 billion baht.
German defence attaché in Bangkok Lt Col Hans-Klaus Haacke says the aircraft price has been renegotiated as a result of the reduced aircraft numbers. He adds that the 25 aircraft will cost Thailand about 1.25 billion baht.
Reconditioning work, which will include the recertification of each airframe, will be carried out by Fairchild Aerospace subsidiary Dornier Luftfahrt at Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.
The German air force says it is in talks with potential buyers for 64 aircraft in storage. Haacke says that written purchase requests have been received from France and a Middle Eastern country, with the number of requests exceeding the number of aircraft available. Germany is keen to off-load the aircraft, as storage costs are understood to be about DM100,000 ($55,000) a month.
Source: Flight International