The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has set out its procurement priorities for the upcoming decade; transport aircraft, combat search-and-rescue helicopters, and light attack aircraft are on the top of the list. RTAF’s long term plans include new fighters to replace the ageing fleet.
RTAF plans to replace its Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transport aircraft fleet. The new aircraft will require to be compatible with Thailand’s Link T data link system. This is a process that RTAF is rolling out.
RTAF will acquire in batches: four aircraft between 2022 and 2025, another four each of the remaining two batches, 2024-2026 and 2026-2029.
The RTAF also plans to acquire two more Korea Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-50TH lead-in fighter trainer.
The T-50THs already in the Air Force’s inventory will likely give KAI an edge to fulfil Thailand’s requirement for a light attack aircraft type to replace the Czech-built Aero Vodochody L-39 trainers.
Thailand wants six more combat search-and-rescue platforms to replace the Bell UH-1s and 412s currently in service.
Even though RTAF has no funding, and it wants to upgrade its Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen fleet to the MS-20 standard, which involves the integration of new weapons, upgrades to sensors and communications, as well as new radar functions and improvements to the pilot-aircraft interface.
Thailand had acquired the Gripens to replace some of its Northrop Grumman F-5E/F Tiger II interceptors, but budget issues prevented further buys. Instead, the country turned to Israel’s Elbit Systems to upgrade its surviving Tiger IIs to the F-5TH Super Tigris.