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Thailand “Close” to Selecting SAAB’s Gripen E/F Fighter Jets for Its Air Force

A few days ago, SAAB opened the doors of its facilities in Sweden to Thai media professionals, allowing them an up-close view of its advanced operations, as reported by Bangkok Post. This initiative is part of a "charm offensive" by the manufacturers of the Gripen fighter jets.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — SAAB Group of Sweden is intensifying its efforts to persuade the Thai government to purchase its latest varian, JAS39 Gripen E/F fighter jets for its air force.

Currently, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) operates 12 of these Swedish-manufactured aircraft, specifically the C/D variants, though one crashed during a demonstration in Hatyai a few years ago.

Recently, SAAB opened its facilities in Sweden to Thai media professionals, allowing them a closer look at its operations, as reported by Bangkok Post.

 This visit is part of a broader charm offensive by the manufacturers of the Gripen fighters.

The Thai media were also given a tour of the Gripen E/F manufacturing facilities, the latest variant of the fighter jet being offered to the RTAF.

Saab Group
Thailand’s Gripen fighter jets.

 

SAAB is positioning the Gripen E/F as a contender against its closest rival, the F-16 Block 70, offered by Lockheed Martin from the United States.

The competition to meet Thailand’s needs currently lies between SAAB’s Gripen E/F and Lockheed Martin’s latest F-16 Block 70 variant.

Sources cited by indicate that the RTAF is likely to choose the Swedish-made Gripen to fulfill its requirements, potentially outperforming the F-16 Block 70.

Signs that Thailand would opt for the Gripen have been evident for months but have become increasingly apparent recently with visits from RTAF Commander ACM Phanpakdee Phattanakul and other senior officers to Sweden last month for further discussions with SAAB’s senior management.

At the end of last month, Wiroj Lakkhanadisorn, Chairman of the Thai Parliament’s Military Committee, also visited the Scandinavian country for similar discussions.

Meanwhile, Robert Bjorklund, the Director of Gripen Thailand Campaign, quoted by a major Thai newspaper, stated that SAAB is offering Thailand an advanced integrated system featuring networked sensor fusion and three sophisticated radar systems: Raven ES-05-AESA, Skyward G-IRST, and Mode 5-IFF.

Gripen
JAS39 Gripen

 

Regarding data link systems, Bjorklund mentioned that the Gripen E/F offered to Thailand is compatible with the Link-16 system and RTAF’s self-developed Link-TH.

 SAAB suggests that RTAF develop its own national data link communication systems for the fighter jets, providing flexibility and security against data breaches.

“SAAB will empower RTAF to become a significant international air force,” he stated.

Thailand is expected to announce its fighter jet selection by the end of this year.

Recently, RTAF ACM Phanpakdee Pattankul confirmed that the choice had narrowed down to the F-16 Block 70 and Gripen-E, particularly since acquiring the F-35 fighter jet as initially planned, is highly unlikely.

According to him, three of the seven current Thai Air Force squadrons will phase out their aging jets.

Gripen

Each squadron consists of 12 fighter jets, with the new aircraft replacing those retired.

The purchase of new fighter jets for Thailand is set to begin next October, starting with four jets followed by additional acquisitions.

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

Sweden and SAAB’s efforts to sell Gripen jets to Thailand are also supported by the United Kingdom.

On March 20, SAAB announced that its efforts to sell the JAS39 Gripen-E also received backing from the UK.

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

 

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, during a recent visit to Thailand, was seen visiting the Thai Air Force squadron that operates the Gripen jets.

Although the Gripen fighters are manufactured by SAAB of Sweden, SAAB revealed that 25 percent of the components for the aircraft are made by companies based in the United Kingdom. — DSA

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