Saab swoops to supply Gripen jets to RTAF in 19-billion-baht deal

Saab AB, the Swedish aerospace company, yesterday announced its intention to supply Gripen fighter jets to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF). The company’s proposal aligns with the Thai government’s offset policy and other requirements for national capability development set by the RTAF.

The offset policy mandates that suppliers of new military equipment to Thailand provide equal economic evaluations in bilateral trade.

The RTAF has outlined plans to procure new fighter jets under a 19-billion-baht budget in the forthcoming fiscal year. The procurement scheme is a part of the RTAF’s white paper, a document detailing development objectives. The scheme is scheduled for Cabinet review on April 2.

The RTAF is reportedly considering Sweden’s Gripen E/F and the US’s F-16 Block 70 aircraft for procurement. A decision on which jet offers better value for money is expected to be made by a selection committee in May or June.

The white paper also includes a proposal to acquire a new squadron of fighter jets in the next fiscal year, beginning Oct 1. The RTAF is planning to retire 102 Squadron’s old F-16s at Wing 1 and replace them with 12 new fighter jets, along with introducing several all-domain development projects.

Robert Hewson, Strategic Communications Director Saab Aeronautics, addressed the Thai media at Saab’s Bangkok headquarters. He explained that the Gripen has the most advanced range of weapons and capabilities compared to other competing fighters. He added that expanding Thailand’s existing Gripen fighters would maximise operational effect while minimising lifecycle costs for the RTAF.

Hewson also emphasised the broader benefits of the Swedish offer.

“The Swedish offer is a high-technology platform for a major, sustainable, strategic partnership to create high-quality jobs, increase exports and develop new capabilities that are relevant to all of Thailand.”

Previously, the RTAF had procured a fleet of 12 Gripen fighters stationed at Wing 7 in Surat Thani, although one was lost in a crash. Hewson dismissed rumours that the Gripen proposal would include an option for a submarine, reported Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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