The Thai Air Force is looking to procure a new fleet of transport aircraft in near future, an Air Force source said on Friday.
Competition for the planned procurement of new transport planes might probably emerge between Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation Y-9 and Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
However, rivalry might as well arise from a third manufacturing country apart from China and the United States, whereas details of the procurement plan are yet to be formulated, he said.
Retiring Air Force chief Trithod Sonchaeng confirmed earlier that his service was looking to buy a new fleet of turboprop-engined transport aircraft to replace a dozen C-130H Hercules transport planes, deployed by the Thai Air Force since 1980.
His successor, newly-named Air Force chief Jom Roongsawang who is scheduled to assume the post next month, is likely to take into account such aircraft procurement plans, the source said.
Over the last several years, 15 countries have placed orders for 300 C-130J transport planes, in production line at Lockheed Martin since 1996.
Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation modernized the Y-9 as variant from the Y-8 with updated technology in avionics and cargo handling systems.
Myanmar, the western neighbor to Thailand, currently deploys 10 Y-8 transport planes, the predecessor version of the Y-9.
Though funding and time frames for the planned procurement of new transport aircraft are yet to be determined, the ageing fleet of C-130H Hercules will almost certainly be decommissioned in the next several years, the source said.
The C-130J Super Hercules is reported to cost 100 million to 120 million U.S. dollars per unit while the selling price for the Shaanxi Y-9 is not available yet.
Earlier this month, a Shaanxi Y-9 transport plane joined a multi-national, non-combat exercise codenamed AM-HEx 2016 at U-tapao naval air base in eastern Thailand.
The Chinese air force took part in the humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise alongside those of Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and the host country.
Viewed as a derivative of the Antonov An-12, the Shaanxi Y-9 can carry 25 tons of cargo and 106 passengers or 132 paratroopers.
Late last month, two Russian-built transport planes were delivered to the Thai Air Force. The Sukhoi Superjet 100LR transport planes, each of which was sold for 34 million U.S. dollars, will fly as a passenger plane for members of the Royal Household and other VIPs.
They were meant to join the Air Force’s Boeing 737 and Airbus aircraft currently deployed on similar purposes.
Meanwhile, the new Thai Air Force chief is expected to consider buying another four Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters to add to an existing squadron of a dozen multi-role combat aircraft of the same type from Sweden.
The Air Force has 12 Gripen fighters at Air Wing 7 in the southern Surat Thani province. The Gripen squadron was procured in 2008 to replace the U.S.-made F-5E Tiger fighters.
The Swedish fighter is reported to cost about 69 million U.S. dollars per unit.