THAILAND HAS SIGNED a US letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for eight McDonnell Douglas (MDC) F-18C/D fighters, following agreement on a countertrade deal.

The Royal Thai Air Force has ordered four single-seat F-18Cs and four two-seat F-18Ds. The first aircraft will be delivered in October 1999, with the remaining seven following at intervals.

It will use the new fighters to supplement 32 Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs already in air-force service. The Thai F-18C/Ds will be used as multi-role fighters, with particular mission emphasis on all-weather maritime strike. The $578 million F-18 deal, approved this year by US Congress, includes the supply of McDonnell Douglas AGM-84 Harpoon missiles.

Other items will include Hughes AAR-50 forward-looking infra-red pods and Loral AAS-38 laser-targeting pods.

A second batch of eight F-18s is expected to be ordered in Thailand's 1997 fiscal year. Finance-ministry spending limits, restricting expenditure on any single defence item to $400 million, forced the air force to divide its fighter purchase into two separate batches. The deal was threatened with delay by Thailand's insistence on partially underwriting the deal with countertrade. MDC is reported to have reached agreement to take Thai produce worth up to 25% of the overall deal (Flight International, 22-28 May, P17).

Thailand had earlier linked the fighter deal to the US supply of Hughes AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missiles. The missiles will be covered by a separate US LOA under a compromise agreement which has been reached with Thailand.

Source: Flight International