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Thailand to Buy 12 Gripen Fighters in 773 Million Euro Deal

Thailand to Buy 12 Gripen Fighters in 773 Million Euro Deal

Sweden to renew Gripens as Thailand selects Swedish fighter.

Thailand has selected the Saab Gripen multirole fighter as the Swedish air force signs a contract to upgrade its aircraft and fund a demonstrator for the next-generation Gripen.

The Thai cabinet has approved the budget to procure 12 Gripen C/Ds and two Saab Erieye airborne early warning aircraft for the Royal Thai Air Force. The Gripens will replace the RTAF's Northrop F-5B/Es.

Phase 1 of the two-stage procurement covers six Gripens and one Erieye, and is budgeted at 19,000 billion baht ($600 million) between 2008 and 2012. The Gripens are to enter RTAF service in 2010.

Phase 2 covers the remaining six Gripens and one Erieye, and is budgeted at 15,400 billion baht ($500 million) between 2013 and 2017.

Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) says it will now begin negotiations with Thailand on the government-to-government deal. It has yet to be determined whether the Gripens will be new-build aircraft or A/Bs taken from the Swedish inventory and remanufactured to C/D standard.

The rebuilding of 31 Gripen A/Bs to C/Ds for the Swedish air force is covered by a SKR3.9 billion ($600 million) contract signed on 17 October. The work will begin in 2008 and the upgraded aircraft will enter service in 2010.
Saab says the upgrade is tied to the decision to reduce the Swedish air force fighter fleet to 100 Gripen C/Ds. The air force currently has 72 C/Ds, and the 31 A/Bs to be upgraded will fill out the force.

Only the engine, radar and some systems from the A/B will be retained during the upgrade, says Saab. The entire airframe will be new-build, and the resulting aircraft will be identical to C/Ds already in service. The upgrade will extend Gripen production to 2012, says Saab.

Included in the overall deal is government funding for the Gripen demonstrator programme. The Gripen Demo will have a new engine, radar, avionics, strengthened airframe, more fuel and expanded weapons capability.

The government has not revealed how much it is contributing to the three-year Demo programme, but Saab says the company is investing SKR1 billion, and suppliers General Electric, Honeywell and Rockwell Collins are also putting in "several hundred million" of their own money.

The Gripen Demo is to fly next year, and will test structural and system upgrades that could be retrofitted into Gripen C/Ds as well as demonstrating capabilities for a future new-build aircraft that Saab is calling the Next Generation Gripen.

The second phase of the Demo programme will include a new active electronically scanned array radar. Saab has evaluated four radars, including AESAs from Raytheon, Selex and Thales, with a decision to be announced by year-end.
Aimed at the export market, the Next Generation Gripen is intended to be "better than the Joint Strike Fighter, apart from those things a superpower needs", says Saab.

Source : (Posted : By Graham WarwickDate : 17 October 2007)

> Sweden Clinches Thai Air Force Deal

The Thai Air Force has announced plans to buy 12 Swedish-made JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft, in a deal worth some 573 million US dollars.

Saab is due to supply the first six aircraft between 2008 and 2012, with a decision on the delivery of the second six to be made later in the year.

Russia’s Sukoi Su-30 and the US-made F-16 were also in the running for the contract.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt welcomed the deal and news Thailand is to hold democratic elections in December.

The Swedish Air Force has ordered 200 Gripen, 142 of which have been delivered. South Africa has bought 28 of the aircraft, and Hungary and the Czech Republic have each leased 14. (ends)

Source : (Posted : Radio Sweden : 17 October 2007)

> Air Force to Get Gripen Jet Fighters; Cabinet Okays B34bn Purchase from Sweden

The cabinet yesterday agreed the air force could buy 12 Gripen multi-role fighters from Sweden at a cost of 34.4 billion baht (worth 772.9 million euros-Ed). The procurement plan has been kept low-profile, with air force chief ACM Chalit Phukphasuk refusing to comment.

Government spokesman Chiya Yimwilai said details would be announced by ACM Chalit today. The new Gripen-JAS 39C/D aircraft will replace the air force's ageing American-made F-5E fighters.

It is the second major arms procurement approved by the cabinet recently. On Sept 25 it endorsed the Defence Ministry's 7.7-billion-baht plan to buy 96 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from Ukraine and 15,000 TAR-21 assault rifles from Israel for the army, C-802 surface-to-surface missiles and launch systems for the navy from China, and new avionics for the six C-130H aircraft operated by the air force.

An air force source said the Swedish purchase will be made in two batches. The first six jets, including spare parts and training programmes, will be bought with a five-year budget of 19 billion baht starting this fiscal year. The 15.4 billion baht cost of the other six planes will be met from the 2013-2017 budget.

The decision to go for the Swedish fighters was made by a committee led by air force chief-of-staff ACM Ittaporn Subhawong, the source said. Air force officials briefed the cabinet on the capabilities of the Gripen yesterday and compared it with other planes on offer.

ACM Chavalit had met Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Sept 29 and convinced him to back the purchase. He cited the need for new combat aircraft to match the Russian-made SU-30 MKM fighters now deployed by Malaysia.

The Gripen jets were in the public spotlight when Thaksin Shinawatra was in power. He talked of bartering, paying some of the cost with chickens instead of cash. The idea went nowhere. Later he ordered then air force chief ACM Kongsak Wantana to switch to the SU-30s. ACM Chalit rejected the plane as unsuited to Thailand's needs when he became the new air force chief.

The source said the Swedish offer was sweetened with the offer of two radar surveillance planes for free.

Meanwhile, army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda said the army would accept any decision made by Defence Minister Gen Boonrawd Somtas on the controversial plan to buy the APCs from Ukraine.

Gen Boonrawd is the person who will make the final decision on whether to ahead with the 3.89-billion-baht APC purchase. ''I can accept any decision by Gen Boonrawd. If he wants to put a stop to it, the purchase will be stopped,'' Gen Anupong said.

The purchase has been frozen by the Defence Ministry despite getting approval from the cabinet. The ministry set up a committee to re-examine the deal and clear up all doubts.

The Office of the Auditor-General also demanded answers from the ministry about the deal. Key questions were why NGV Enterprise, which represented Ukraine, won the contract even though it failed to tender a bid within the specified deadline. State auditors also questioned the quality of the products.

Gen Anupong said the army had already answered the state auditor's questions and explained to the minister why the Ukrainian vehicles were needed. He said arms dealers and critics did not know everything. The vehicles from the Ukraine came with German-made engines and were most suited to the army's needs and budget.

Source : (Posted : Bangkok Post, Date : 17 October 2007)
Image: Thailand will buy 12 Saab Gripen fighters in two batches to replace its F-5E Tigers, after the US ruled out the sale of F-16C/Ds. (Gripen photo)


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