The Royal Thai Air Force has identified three possible causes for the crash of an F-16 fighter jet earlier this month in Chaiyaphum province.
During a training mission, the aircraft crashed in a field in the Chatturat district on March 8. The pilot was able to safely eject from the plane before it hit the ground. After receiving a request for more information on Friday (18 Mar), the House Committee on Military Affairs held a hearing to discuss the incident.
This is the 5th F-16 accident on a total of 7 if we include the F-5 fighter jet accident as well.
Last December, one F-5 fighter jet, of the 211th Air Wing, crashed while on a weapons training exercise in Chai Badan district of Lop Buri. It is believed that the crash was caused by a bird strike, later identified as an open-billed stork.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the world’s most successful and combat-proven military aircraft to ever fly. F-16s in operation with militaries worldwide have now collectively taken part in more than 400,000 combat sorties and have logged a combined 19 million flight hours.
Move Forward Party list-MP Kasemsan Meethip cited a document distributed to members as evidence that the oxygen system, the G-suit and pilot health were all listed as potential factors. The exact cause has yet to be determined.
The probe also reveals that the oxygen system was in proper working order before the flight. The pilot was meanwhile reportedly in good health, and a blood test revealed that he did not have any traces of alcohol or narcotics in his system.
The jet had accumulated more than 6,000 hours of flight time. On the day of the crash, the pilot was practising a dogfight manoeuvre when he appeared to briefly lose control of the aircraft.
Royal Thai Air Force Spokesperson Air Vice-Marshal Prapas Sornchaidee has announced that a committee reviewing Thailand’s fighter aircraft acquisition plan has concluded that the Kingdom should purchase 5th-generation fighter jets, as they are best suited for current strategic demands.
Air Vice-Marshal Prapas said a panel chaired by Deputy Air Chief Marshal Thanasak Metanan assessed the air force’s policies, missions and operational plans and decided that 5th-gen fighter jets possess the critical functions necessary to safeguard national security interests.
The jets under review included the US-made F35, China’s J-20 and Russia’s SU-57.
According to Air Vice-Marshal Prapas, necessary functions include network-centric operations, counter-air strikes, surveillance and reconnaissance, long-range operations, and effective control of air operations. He added that this generation of fighter jets will also feature crucial capabilities such as stealth, supercruise, sensor fusion and high manoeuvrability.
The panel, which was set up on January 10, also considered the aircraft’s systems’ reliability, the air force’s budget, delivery schedule and technology transfer offers.
A committee report is expected to be presented to Air Force Commander Air Chief-Marshal Napadej Dhupatemiya next month for further consideration. Thailand currently operates 12 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets and dozens of F-16 and F-5 fighter jets from the United States.