Thailand’s quest for a new fighter appears to be warming up, with media reports suggesting activity around a need for 12 aircraft.

Recent reports from Thailand indicate that Lockheed Martin and Saab continue to promote fighters for a long-running requirement to replace ageing F-16s.

Royal Thai Air Force F-16s

Source: Royal Thai Air Force

Will Thailand opt for more F-16s or the Gripen E/F?

According to a Bangkok Post report citing defence minister Sutin Klungsang, US Ambassador to Thailand Robert Godec has offered Bangkok the opportunity to obtain F-16s via a loan arrangement.

Obtaining the fighters via a loan would allow more aircraft to be obtained, but Klungsang is quoted as saying that the interest rate is “too high”.

Thailand has been considering the F-16 Block 70/72 for some time, but the US government’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency has yet to issue a Foreign Military Sales case for such a deal.

Saab is also angling for the requirement, with a pitch for the Gripen E/F. A report from mid-June indicates that the Swedish company has hosted Thai journalists and defence officials at its headquarters in Stockholm.

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has experience with both the F-16 and Gripen. Cirium fleets data indicates that it operates 47 F-16A/Bs with an average age of 34.3 years, and 11 Gripen C/Ds with an average age of 12.5 years.

In March, an RTAF white paper outlined its requirements for new aircraft but suggested a lack of progress since a similar white paper from 2020.

The white paper again requested the replacement of F-16s serving with 102 Sqn. Whereas the 2020 white paper called for 12 new fighters to be obtained from 2023-2028, the updated white paper pushes the timeframe back, seeing a need for 12-14 fighters to be acquired between 2025 and 2034.