Thailand's cabinet has given in-principle approval to order six more Saab Gripen fighters and one more Saab 340-based airborne early warning and control system from Sweden. It has also agreed to upgrade some of the air force's Lockheed Martin F-16s.

The cabinet will ensure that there are funds in the next budget for the Royal Thai Air Force to sign a contract with Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration for the follow-on Gripen and Saab 340 deal, say sources, responding to Thai news reports quoting the prime minister's spokesman.

Thailand already has six Gripen C/Ds and one AEW&C aircraft on order. It had always intended to double this through a subsequent deal, after its original order was split in two in 2008 because of tight budgetary constraints.

 Thai Gripen 1 - Gripen International
© Gripen International
Thailand's first Gripen made its flight debut last September

Saab conducted the first flight of a Thai Gripen - a two-seat D-model - from its Linköping site last September and will begin deliveries to the air force during 2011. The type will be used to replace some of the service's Northrop F-5Es stationed in the south of the country. Saab announced on 27 January that the first batch of Thai technicians to prepare for operations with the new type have begun their training at the Swedish military's Halmstad base.

The Thai prime minister's spokesman also says the cabinet has agreed to make funds available for the air force to advance a requested upgrade to 18 of its F-16A/Bs. Thailand has an active fleet of 57 of the type, Flightglobal's MiliCAS database shows. It received its first examples in the early 1980s.

Source: Flight International