Flyin’ high with Gripen: RTAF eyes Swedish jets amidst F-35A snub

Photo Courtesy of Corban Lundborg, Defence Blog

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is considering the acquisition of three Gripen jet fighters from Sweden, following the United States’ recent refusal to sell F-35A fighter jets. The plan is to add these jets to the RTAF fleet in Wing 7, located in Surat Thani.

The RTAF Gripen fighters are an integral part of the nation’s air force, with 12 of these advanced Swedish jets currently stationed at Wing 7 in Surat Thani, however, with one aircraft having been previously lost in an accident. Each of the Swedish jets carries a price tag of approximately 2 billion baht.

Furthermore, Sweden is expected to update a radar system used by the RTAF, which is expected to cost around 4 billion baht. This system has been in service for a decade and is ready for an upgrade.

A panel to study and select suitable fighter aircraft for replacing Thailand’s F-16 fighter jets has not yet been formed by RTAF commander-in-chief ACM Alongkorn Wannarot. These planes have been in service for over three decades.

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Despite the US making recommendations for the RTAF to acquire 4.5-generation fighter jets, such as the F-16 block 70 and F-15 aircraft, budget constraints for the fiscal year 2024 make it impossible to commit to such procurements.

The US believes that 4.5-generation fighter jets would be suitable for the RTAF in preparation for future purchases of F-35As. However, the process of supplying F-35A jets to a new buyer can take a minimum of 10 years, including the necessary installations of specific infrastructure, training facilities, and security systems. The F-35A jets come with new technical and operational concepts, along with stealth capabilities, making sharing infrastructure with the existing F-16 systems impossible.

The decision on RTAF Gripen jets will be reviewed by a new commander-in-chief, who is set to be appointed on October 1, reported Bangkok Post.

In recent news, the RTAF has justified its purchase of guidance extended range kits from South Korea, totalling 50 million baht. This acquisition is part of the RTAF’s ongoing efforts to enhance its capabilities and maintain operational effectiveness within the region.

A spokesperson for the RTAF has highlighted that the integration of these kits will significantly bolster the force’s long-range air strike capabilities, perfectly aligning with their strategic defence preparation plan. Read more HERE.

Thailand News

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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