Thailand finds aircraft bargains in Germany

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Thailand is buying 50 Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets advanced trainers/light strike aircraft from the German air force for the knock-down price of 1 million baht ($27,000) each.

Although the aircraft are cheap, another 60 million baht will have to be spent on each one to make it airworthy. The first aircraft could enter service by December.

Thailand, hit hard by the Asian economic crises, requires the aircraft to replace elderly Rockwell OV-10C Broncos, Fairchild AU-23 Peacemakers and Aero L-39 Albatros used in the border surveillance/light strike role. These aircraft are based close to the area where the neighbouring Myanmar army has recently been mounting cross-border raids.

Germany received 175 Alpha Jets between 1979 and 1983, which it used in the light strike role rather than for training until 1995. Most of the aircraft have since been mothballed, although some were supplied to Portugal.