Wants to buy F-35 fighter jets, Thailand could be hindered by US approval because of its proximity to China

Wants to buy F-35 fighter jets, Thailand could be hindered by US approval because of its proximity to China
A F-35C Lightning II taxis on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson Jan. 20, 2022, in the Philippine Sea. (MCSN Leon Vonguyen/Navy)

International Military - Thailand is currently eyeing the US-made F-35 fighter jet. The procurement of F-35 fighter jets will be used to replace Thailand's aging air fleet. Emphasizing the strong will, the F-35 company said the decision to approve the purchase of its fighter jets rests with the US government.

The F-35 fighter jet is a state-of-the-art fifth-generation aircraft and a sensitive asset for the US. The US does not sell F-35 fighter jets to just any country. Only close allies have been given US approval to acquire the F-35 fighter jet.

Reporting from Defense Security Asia, the Thai cabinet has approved an allocation of USD 413.7 million to acquire four new fighter jets. The four new fighter jets are believed to be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. If it manages to get US approval, the purchase of F-35 fighter jets will be made in the following fiscal year.

Thailand's desire to acquire the F-35 is partly because the price of the fighter jet has dropped compared to when it was introduced on the market. However, it is likely that the US will find it difficult to give approval to Thailand for the purchase of F-35 fighter jets.

One of the main reasons why the US might hesitate to send its advanced fighter jets to Thailand is because the military ties between Bangkok and China are deepening.

Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on Chinese military aviation said Thailand's interest in the US fighter jet was surprising. He said Thailand had shifted more towards China in recent years. Cooperation between Thailand and China has grown significantly since the 2014 coup.

After the coup, the US canceled $4.7 million in weapons funding, then China offered its various weapons systems at lower prices. China is also developing a submarine facility in the Sattahip Navy in Thailand.

The Chinese Navy now appears to have access to the base, which has long been a stopover for the US Navy. Thailand has also regularly conducted bilateral Air Force, Navy and Army exercises with Chinese counterparts.

In 2016, the Thai army ordered 50 VT-4 main battle tanks from China to replace the 1950s-era US-made M-41 tanks. The deal is worth USD 231 million and was completed in December 2019. This of course made the US a little hesitant to give Thailand its blessing to acquire the F-35 fighter jet. The US will be concerned and afraid that the Thai military will compromise the sensitive technology of its F-35 fighter jets with China.

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