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Sweden’s Gripen-E to Battle US-Made F-16 Block 70 For Thailand’s Contract

According to reports, Thailand has shortlisted two fighter aircraft in its final list: the latest variant of Lockheed Martin's F-16, known as the F-16 Block 70, and the Gripen-E, the latest variant of the JAS39 fighter aircraft manufactured by Sweden's Saab Group.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — After failing to procure fifth-generation fighter jets, specifically the F-35, from the United States, Thailand is now in the final stages of deliberation before deciding on its new fighter aircraft to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighters.

Thailand is expected to announce its choice of fighter aircraft by the end of this year.

According to reports, Thailand has shortlisted two fighter aircraft in its final list: the latest variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-16, known as the F-16 Block 70, and the Gripen-E, the latest variant of the JAS39 fighter aircraft manufactured by Sweden’s Saab Group.

The selection of the F-16 Block 70 and Gripen-E fighters has been confirmed by Thailand’s Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Phanpakdee Pattankul.

“Since acquiring F-35 fighter jets as initially planned is highly improbable, the options have been narrowed down to Gripen-E and F-16 Block 70,” he stated.

F-16
F-16 Block 70

 

He further mentioned that out of the seven squadrons currently in the Thai Air Force, three squadrons of its fighter jets will be retired due to aging and obsolescence.

 Each squadron comprises 12 fighter jets, and the new acquisitions will replace the retired ones.

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

Currently, Thailand operates F-16 fighter jets of older variants and 12 Gripen JAS39 aircraft acquired from Saab in 2008.

The Thai Air Force reportedly operates 50 F-16s, with 36 serving as fighter jets and the remaining 14 for training purposes.

Thailand aims to retire its aging F-16 A/B fighter jets.

Gripen
Thailand’s Gripen fighter jet

 

“We are confident that the F-16 Block 70 fighter jets will enhance the capabilities of the Thai Air Force and provide 21st-century capabilities and performance to address the defense needs of the country,” said a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin to Defense News.

Simultaneously, Saab Group has offered the latest Gripen-E variant to Thailand to ensure that the Swedish company captures the interest of the Southeast Asian nation.

Robert Bjorklund, a Saab representative, reportedly stated last November that the existing capabilities of Thailand’s Gripen fleet would be further enhanced if paired with the latest Gripen variants, Gripen-E.

Efforts by Sweden and Saab to sell Gripen aircraft to Thailand have also received support from the United Kingdom.

On March 20, Saab announced that its efforts to sell the JAS39 Gripen-E had received support from the UK.

Saab Group
Thailand’s Gripen fighter jets.

 

“Sweden and the United Kingdom are collaborating to offer the best future capabilities to the Thai Air Force,” according to a statement released by Saab.

During a recent visit to Thailand, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron was observed visiting Thai Air Force squadrons operating Gripen fighter jets operated by the Southeast Asian country.

Although the Gripen fighter jets are manufactured by Saab in Sweden, Saab revealed that 25 percent of the components for the aircraft are produced by UK-based companies. — DSA

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