Thailand Buying JAS-39 Gripens, AWACS


New Member
Feb 16, 2009
It’s a small, agile fighter that can take off and land on highways, while carrying the latest technologies and weapons. It does very well against NATO’s best aircraft in exercises, comes with a reasonable price tag, and is built for low lifetime operating costs. Unfortunately, in a world where people often buy your weapons because they want you to be their friend, the cachet of having Sweden in your corner isn’t quite what it used to be when their sailors wore those cool horned helmets. As a result, the JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent, reasonably-priced fighter struggling for traction in the global marketplace. “The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4th Generation Wild Card” looks at this capable lightweight fighter and its market opportunities, and wonders if Gripen will be “the little fighter that could” – or the last fighter from a storied aviation industry.

A recent sale to Thailand has expanded Saab’s horizons somewhat, as the Gripen beat out the SU-30s favored by the previous Thai government. Lockheed Martin’s F-16 had been considered the leading contender to replace the RTAF’s 15-25 aging F-5B/Es, given Thailand’s extensive history with that aircraft. Other candidates included Russia’s MiG-29, and France’s Rafale. Saab had a very competitive offering on cost and performance, but in order to win, they had to throw in a very significant “something extra.”

The latest developments involve first flights for both aircraft types, and a technology joint venture that begins to fulfill the deal’s industrial and technology development conditions…

At present, the Royal Thai Air Force’s fighter fleet consists of old 1960s-70 era upgraded F-5E/F Tiger IIs, plus AV-8S Harrier IIs and F-16A/B fighters. A number of its neighbors are currently flying longer-range and more advanced SU-27/30 Flanker fighters, however, including India (SU-30MK & SU-30MKI), Indonesia (SU-27SK & SU-30MK), Malaysia (SU-30MKM), Vietnam (SU-27SK), and China (SU-27SK/J-11 & SU-30MKK).

In mid-October 2007 The Thai Cabinet approved a budget of 34.4 billion baht (about $1.1 billion) for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) to purchase 12 JAS-39 Gripen multi-role fighters to replace its aging fleet of F-5 B/E Tiger II aircraft (the Israeli-upgraded F-5Ts with DASH helmet displays and Python missiles will remain in service). The RTAF would also buy 2 Saab S-1000/ S340 Erieye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, together with associated equipment and services.

The Saab Erieye AWACS was recently sold to Pakistan, and uses a fixed active-array S-band antenna with 200 solid state modules. The look angle on each side is about 160 degrees, with a maximum range of about 450 km (279 miles) from 20,000 feet, and effective range against fighter-size or seaborne targets of about 300-330 km (180-205 miles). The electronically scanned antenna can scan sectors of interest frequently while others are monitored, and a single sector can be scanned in different modes at the same time.

Thai Air force chief Chalit Phukphasuk Chavalit reportedly met with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Sept 29/07 and convinced him to support the purchase, citing the need for new combat aircraft to match neighboring Malaysia’s new SU-30MKMs. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly ordered then air force chief ACM Kongsak Wantana to switch to the SU-30s for Thailand’s own purchase, but ACM Chalit rejected the plane as unsuited to Thailand’s needs when he became the new air force chief.

Negotiations between Thai and Swedish government officials followed, in order to conclude a formal agreement. Delivery of the Gripens into operational service of the Royal Thai Air Force is now planned for 2011, and the buy is divided into 2 phases:

Phase 1 covers 6 JAS-39 Gripen fighters (2x JAS-39C single-seat, 4x JAS-39D 2-seat), including spare parts and training; and 2 Saab 340 turboprop aircraft. One Saab 340 will be outfitted as an S-1000 airborne early warning system with Saab’s Erieye radar, while the other will be a training and transport platform. The cost would be about 19 billion baht/ SEK 3.8 billion/ $600 million1, spread within a 5-year budgetary commitment from 2008-2012.

The Swedish fighters will be stationed at the air force base in Surat Thani, where they would cover the Gulf of Thailand, the Andaman Sea and the southern region of the country.

In Phase 2, the RTAF intended to procure an additional 6 Gripen fighters together with associated equipment, spare parts and training, and a 2nd Saab S340 Erieye AEW system aircraft, for about $500 million over a 5-year budgetary commitment from 2013-2017. A budget squeeze ended up delaying this option, and may remove it entirely.

Sweden has offered the Gripen fighters with a 2-year maintenance and spare parts support package. As is frequently the case, Saab’s deal includes industrial offsets and benefits involving Saab investment, and Thai-Swedish industrial, science & technology co-operation, technology transfer, and investment co-operation.

Thailand Buying JAS-39 Gripens, AWACS


Senior Member
Jun 23, 2010
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Thai Gripens To Be Operational In 2011

The first of four Royal Thai Air Force Gripen pilots and technicians are undergoing training in Sweden to allow Squadron 701 of the 7th Wing to go operational next year.

Thailand is initially buying six Gripens, with a plan to grow that to 12 aircraft. Further purchases are possible, but will have to await the first operational experiences with the fighter in Thailand, says Wing Cdr. Jackkrit Thammavichai, who will be the first squadron commander. However, he says, "I foresee no problem" in making the case for more aircraft.

Four pilots are now in Sweden to undergo training as instructor pilots, with another six to come to Sweden in January for training as quick reaction alert pilots. The current batch so far has flown the A/B Gripens and will begin work with the C/Ds soon, with their training to end in December.

Thammavichai says the experience to transition former F-5 and F-16 pilots has been good, with the aircraft "easy to fly." The flight control system is "very smooth," and the human-machine interface "well designed."

All six Gripens should be delivered to Thailand by March. The aircraft will initially be armed by AIM-9M Sidewinders and AIM-120 Amraams, although Thailand also is buying the IRIS-T dogfight missile for Gripen use.

As part of the so called Gripen Integrated Air Defense System, the RTAF also will field Erieye early warning aircaft. The entire network is to go operational next year, too, Thammavichai says.

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