wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK2822
2005-04-26 08:11:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

F-16 AND RTAF FIGHTER REPLACEMENT: ELEVATING

Tags:   MASS  MCAP  PGOV  EIND  TH  POL  MIL 
pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002822 

SIPDIS

DEFENSE FOR OSD/ISA (POWERS & STERN), DSCA, STET/ISA
(NSCF), PACOM FOR FDA HUSO, DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/21/2015
TAGS: MASS MCAP PGOV EIND TH POL MIL
SUBJECT: F-16 AND RTAF FIGHTER REPLACEMENT: ELEVATING
PROFILE OF LOCKHEED MARTIN BID

REF: BANGKOK 07550

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reasons 1.4 (a) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: On April 20, in a meeting with 13th Air
Force Commander, Major General Edward Rice and the Royal Thai
Air Force (RTAF) Selection Committee, Lockheed Martin (LM)
executives advocated that RTAF purchase F-16s to replace
their aging F-5 fighters. The presentation offered three
principal advantages of the F-16: (1)- vastly increased
technical capabilities over what the Thais have now, (2)- a
system which is compatible and already familiar to RTAF
personnel, and (3)- an offer of up to 100% countertrade and
various options of industrial cooperation, as well as
flexible financing and technological transfers.



2. (C) According to US military officials, LM is offering the
best planes at the best price, but their bid is by no means
certain to win, due to the higher-profile campaigns and
under-the-table tactics from both the other bidders. USAF
and LM officials believe the LM bid is on the upswing, and
though it was seen as a lost cause until a few weeks ago, it
may have drawn even with the two rival bids. The key
obstacle is an earlier directive from PM Thaksin to consider
only the Swedish and Russian bids, due to their offers of
countertrade. Although LM is now offering countertrade, it
appears possible that the Thai Commerce Department is still
adhering to this earlier directive and not considering LM's
bid. Post believes that if senior-level US officials clarify
LM's countertrade proposal with PM Thaksin directly, the tide
could turn in LM's favor. RTAF will have to make its final
recommendation to the PM by late May, while the final
decision on a winning bidder is expected to made over the
summer. We ask that PACOM Commander ADM Fallon and the Deputy
Secretary both raise F-16 in separate meetings with the Prime

SIPDIS
Minister during the week of May 2. END SUMMARY

ENHANCED CAPABILITIES



3. (SBU) The meeting between Lockheed Martin and the RTAF
Selection Committee began with a highly detailed technical
presentation by USAF which highlighted the enhanced
capabilities of the new F-16 (Block 52) fighter planes. The
presentation meticulously contrasted the capabilities of
RTAF's current hardware with what they would be getting with
the new equipment. Having the new F-16s would mean enhanced
communications systems, safety features, information
gathering, night visibility, fuel storage, among other
things. The briefer stressed the commonality of F-16s already
in the RTAF inventory, training and equipment with the Block
52s, and further emphasized the ability of the Block 52s to
provide a solid bridge of experience and skill sets for the
RTAF to transition to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in the
future.


MAKING THE MOST OF WHAT THAILAND ALREADY HAS



4. (SBU) LM also focused on the logistical advantages to the
Thai military of choosing the F-16 fighters. RTAF pilots
already had experience flying F-16s. Having a system that is
compatible with that of the United States and mutual allies
would also be beneficial for military cooperation among all
sides. LM highlighted that under their proposal, Thailand
would also be entitled to certain specified amounts of
support equipment, spare parts, USAF pilot training, as well
as a 2-year "update service".

BARTER AGREEMENTS, COUNTERTRADE AND TECHNICAL & INDUSTRIAL
COOPERATION



5. (SBU) LM highlighted the 18-year client relationship
between LM and the RTAF, and their place on the cutting edge
of international aviation technology. Officials made it clear
that LM was willing to share LM technology through industrial
cooperation projects and other technology transfers. LM
officials stressed their willingness to offer 100%
countertrade or offsets if the RTG so desired. The head of
the delegation added that his company was willing to exercise
a great deal of "financial flexibility" in order to satisfy
Thailand and pointed out that if Thailand was interested in
assistance in fields unrelated to the defense industry, LM
was willing to work with them on that as well. The LM team
emphasized that no other company in the world possessed the
assets and capabilities to tailor a winning package for
Thailand.
RENEWED OPTIMISM...CONTINUED PESSIMISM


6. (C) During preparatory meetings and side meetings, USAF
and LM officials agreed that the LM bid offered the best
package for RTAF. Despite widespread support from
lower-ranking members of the RTAF who favor the superior,
easier-to-integrate F-16s, the Embassy remains concerned
about the transparency of the selection process. The Swedes
and the Russians also have the added advantage of having
high-level officials (King Carl XVI Gustaf and President
Putin) raising the issue directly with RTG. Post believes
similar high-level involvement on the part of USG may still
influence the RTG. Still, these same officials agree that LM
has a definite shot at winning the bid, which they certainly
didn't have one month ago. Reasons for the shift include a
renewed push by LM, which had previously figured Thailand
might opt simply for an upgrade of current planes rather than
a purchase of new fighters. The RTAF officers present for
the meeting considered this the "first" meeting with LM in
which the company expressed a strong intention to meet the
legal requirements for countertrade.



7. (C) RTAF informed JUSMAG that the key obstacle to purchase
of F-16s is an earlier directive from PM Thaksin to consider
only the Swedish and Russian bids due to their offers of
offsets and countertrade. At that time, one of Thailand's
key objectives was to unload its stockpiles of frozen
chickens. Although LM is now offering countertrade, and
although chickens have become a less important issue, it
appears possible that the Commerce Department is still
adhering to this directive. Complicating matters is the
perception that Lockheed Martin's bid lacks high-level
backing from the USG. Our RTAF interlocutors suggest that
this could be remedied by direct involvement by senior USG
officials. Clear guidance from PM Thaksin to consider the
F-16 offer must be received by RTAF before they will forward
a recommendation to acquire F-16s.

FOLLOW-UP



8. (C) In all meetings, RTAF officials repeatedly stressed
that there was a widespread consensus within the organization
that F-16s were the logical choice for their next generation
of fighters. LM hopes to boost this level of support by
meeting with F-16 pilots and key wing leadership at both
Korat and Takhli Air Force Bases April 21-22. The RTAF New
Fighter Selection Committee expressed their intention to
forward packages and a recommendation to the Ministry of
Defense by approximately May 22, while the final decision on
a winning bidder is expected to made in July or August.



9. (C) Post expects PACOM Commander ADM Fallon will raise
F-16 in his meetings with MOD, MFA and the Prime Minister on
May 3 and 4. We also will recommend that Deputy Secretary
Zoellick urge Thaksin to seriously consider Lockheed Martin's
countertrade offer during his meeting with the PM on May 4.
We are working closely with Washington colleagues to find
other high-level opportunities to promote F-16, including
Foreign Minister Kantathi's upcoming visit to the United
States.
BOYCE