Thailand to spend $224 million to upgrade 6 F-16s.

The Defence Ministry has earmarked a Bt6.9-billion secret budget for the upgrade of six F-16 AB fighter aircraft, including the installation of an air navigation system and maintenance costs.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsu-wan informed the government about the spending plan at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, government deputy spokesman Watchara Kannikar said.

The budget will be spread over a three-year period, starting with the initial outlay of Bt1 billion for the current fiscal year.

The price tag for aircraft navigation is estimated at US$205 million (Bt6.56 billion), but the actual disbursement will hinge on the exchange rate fluctuation. The budgetary earmark came in the wake of the crash of two F-16 ADF fighter jets on Monday. Prawit reported to the Cabinet that Air Force investigators were investigating the cause of the crash during the Cobra Gold exercise in Chaiyaphum.

He said the investigators would check physical evidence, weather reports, relevant flight data and testimonies of the two pilots who safely ejected, before drawing a conclusion. He said his initial assumption was that it was an accident and not a mechanical malfunction.

The two jets were refurbished before being deployed by the Air Force in 2002.

nationmultimedia.com

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