Thailand's cabinet has approved a 19 billion baht ($568 million) budget for the first phase of its F-X fighter competition, advancing an order for six Saab Gripen C/D fighters, plus accessories, spare parts and flight training programmes.
The aircraft will be used to replace part of the Royal Thai Air Force's fleet of Northrop F-5Es, which have fallen behind a newer generation of fighters operated by other south-eastern Asian nations, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Thailand’s first Gripen is likely to be handed over late this year, with the last to be delivered in 2012, although Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration is still waiting for approval from its government to finalise the sale.
Bangkok also has options on a further six Gripens, but a decision on these will have to be made by a new government, with general elections having taken place in December.
A budget of 15.4 billion baht has been set aside for the second phase, with deliveries expected from 2013. Two Saab 340 airborne early warning aircraft have also been included as part of the overall Gripen deal (both types pictured below in Swedish air force markings).
© Frans Dely/Gripen International
Confirmation of the Gripen order follows several years of lobbying by Saab and the Swedish government, which had faced competition from types including the Boeing F/A-18, Lockheed Martin F-16C/D, RSK MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-30.
Buoyed by its success in Thailand, the Gripen team is now preparing its proposal for India's approximately $10.2 billion competition for 126 new multirole combat aircraft. The design faces opposition from the F/A-18, F-16 and MiG-35, plus Dassault's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.