Thailand has declared its first six Saab Gripen fighters to be operational, following two years of training for its air force personnel.

The announcement was made at a ceremony at the Royal Thai Air Force's Wing 7 base in the southern province of Surat Thani, said Saab.

Thailand ordered six Gripen C/Ds in 2008, and in 2010 signed a subsequent deal for six single-seat examples, which are to be delivered in 2013.

 Thai Gripens - Saab
© Saab

The first Gripen deal also included one Saab 340 airborne-early-warning-and-control-system aircraft and a Saab 340 transport. A second Saab Microwave Systems Erieye radar-equipped aircraft was included with the follow-on Gripen purchase.

Thailand's pilots and technicians were trained in Sweden from 2009, said Saab.

The first batch of aircraft were delivered in February, with the Gripens to replace Thailand's Northrop F-5 fighters. Thailand follows the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Sweden in operating the Gripen, with the type also used by the UK Empire Test Pilots' School.

A new-generation version dubbed the Gripen NG is also involved in a fighter competition in Brazil, but was eliminated from India's medium multi-role combat aircraft competition in April.

Source: Flight International