Friday, July 8, 2011

Thai Gripen Operational

Today RTAF - Royal Thai Air Force declared the Gripen fighter and the Saab 340 AEW operational.

RTAF now have 10 Gripen pilots and 30 technicians that have been trained in Sweden. They have also undergone CRT - Combat Readiness Training in Thailand with support of the Swedish Air Force Support Group at Wing 7. More pilots will be trained in Thailand. These pilots and technicians will form the core of the first Gripen squadron and maintenance unit. Since the Gripen is much less demanding when it comes to maintenance compared to F-5/F-16, RTAF is now fully prepared to operate the Gripen.

But how does the future for the Gripen in Thailand look like?

In a comment on the Swedish Air Force blogg, the Gripen News Thread believed in more good news in Thailand and hinted about "ADF". The only ADF-related thing that I could find using Google and the search parameters "thai air force ADF" was the RTAF F-16.

The first 12 Gripen that has been ordered by RTAF will replace the old F-5 at Wing 7 Surat Thani. The first 6 Gripen has already been delivered and the next 6 will be delivered in 2013. But what will happen with RTAF F-16? The F-16 used in RTAF are old Block 15 F-16A/B. They have recently been modernized in order to keep them flying a few years more. But maybe there are ongoing negotiations about replacing them with more Gripen fighters?

RTAF has approximately 30 x F-5 and 57 x F-16. 18 of the F-16 are undergoing structural upgrade program to prolong their life length to 2025. To replace the F-5 there is a possibility that RTAF will buy 18 more Gripen. If the oldest F-16 will be replaced, this could possible result in as many as 39 more Gripen, in total a possible contract for 57 Gripen and more in 2025. The new Prime Minister in Thailand has promised increase in economical support for the poor people of the population i Thailand, so most probably this will result in that the Armed Forces will not get as much money as they want. On the other hand I suspect that the Prime Minister want the support of the military commanders in order not to repeat her fathers fate, so maybe the reduction in the military budget will not be as big as it could have been.

My guess is that RTAF will replace at least one squadron of F-16 with 18 Gripen and buy 6 more to Wing 7. Then in 2025 RTAF will probably buy a further 18 to replace the last F-16 squadron. 42 more Gripen for Saab to sell to Thailand will be a good boost in the economy while they wait to see what happens with the future for Gripen E/F.

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  1. I think he meant more good news for Saab.
    So ADF = Australian Defense Force?

    The RAAF however currently operates the F/A-18A/B Hornets and the F/A-18 F/F+ Super Hornets which are both quite similar to the JAS 39C/D & E/F(NG) fighter jets. They will soon also head down the F-35A road, so a future for the Gripen in Australia seems very, very nil. Australia also operates the Boeing 737 AEW&C so any chances of the usage of the Saab 340AEW&C aircraft also seems quite small.

  2. Well, Australia might seam a bit far fetched. But they have big problems keeping their Air Force pilots (and submarine personnel).

    Swedish companies have been working together with the Aussies before. Saab have delivered C2 solutions for the ANZAC frigates.

    Kockums have been delivering the Collins submarines. They have had a lot of problems, but are now fully operational.

    One reason for the RAAF to study the Gripen is to have numbers in the Air Force, not just some few high capability aircraft. RAAF also need Air-2-Air capability, which the F-35 is not designed for. They have been interested in the F-22, but when the production stopped due to financial problems in the US, i believe Australia are not considering this any more.

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