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“Submarine Options for JAS39 Gripen Merely Speculative, Says Saab”

Quoted by the Bangkok Post newspaper, Saab Aeronautics' Director of Strategic Communications, Robert Hewson, simply stated that the option of submarine ownership in the event of Thailand selecting the JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft is merely speculative.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — Swedish company Saab has refuted claims of extending a submarine acquisition option to Thailand should the Southeast Asian nation opt for the JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft to bolster its air force.

This clarification came from Robert Hewson, the Director of Strategic Communications at Saab Aeronautics, in a recent media interaction in Thailand.

As reported by the Bangkok Post, Hewson simply stated that the submarine acquisition option, in the event of Thailand selecting the JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft, was mere speculation.

Last October, Thailand decided to procure a frigate from China to “replace” submarines that were supposed to be received from Beijing.

Bangkok was slated to receive submarines from China last year, but Beijing has thus far failed to deliver them due to “differences in opinion” regarding the engine, with Thailand insisting on German-made engines for the submarines while Beijing preferred to use engines from its own companies.

Saab Group
Thailand’s Gripen fighter jets.


It appears that the Southeast Asian nation is now prepared to temporarily set aside the acquisition of submarines from China and instead “replace” them with a frigate from an Asian power.

Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang reportedly stated that the Southeast Asian nation is postponing efforts to acquire submarines temporarily due to issues in obtaining engines for the submarines it was supposed to acquire from China.

He mentioned that the frigate to be acquired from China has the capability to address threats from air, surface, and underwater domains.

Regarding the offer of the JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft to Thailand, Hewson noted that the fighter aircraft comes with advanced weaponry packages and capabilities surpassing those of its competitors.

“It offers options in terms of weaponry systems that are hard to challenge by competing aircraft,” he said, adding that the Gripen fighter aircraft serves as the “backbone” of the national defense system.

He stated that increasing the number of Gripen fighter aircraft in the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) inventory would have operational benefits with low lifecycle costs.

 “The Yuan Class S26T Submarine Made by China, as Initially Intended for Acquisition by Thailand.”


According to him, the offer of Gripen fighter aircraft to Thailand represents a high-tech platform for strategic partnerships, enabling the creation of high-quality job opportunities, besides enhancing exports and creating new capabilities beneficial to Thailand.

At present, the RTAF operates 12 JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft acquired from Saab in 2008, based in Surat Thani in southern Thailand.

However, one of the Gripen aircraft crashed during an air show in Hatyai a few years ago.

Bangkok reportedly narrowed down its selection to two fighter aircraft in the final list, the latest variants of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 and Saab Group’s Gripen-E, the latest variant of the JAS39 fighter aircraft from Sweden.

The selection of F-16 Block 70 and Gripen-E fighter aircraft in the final list was recently confirmed by Air Force Commander Marshal Phanpakdee Pattankul.

Saab Group
Thailand’s Gripen fighter jets.


“It is highly unlikely to purchase the F-35 fighter aircraft as planned; the choice has been narrowed down to the Gripen-E and F-16 Block 70,” he said.

According to sources cited by The Bangkok Post, Thailand’s procurement of new fighter aircraft will commence in October this year with the acquisition of four initial fighter aircraft, followed by additional units.

The Royal Thai Air Force selection committee is expected to make the final decision on Thailand’s fighter aircraft choice in June, with Saab and the Gripen-E expected to be Bangkok’s preference. –DSA