KUALA LUMPUR: The Thais (see the story below) has announced its attention to buy 12 Saab Gripens for US$1 billion earlier this week.
If the deal goes through (depending on Thai politics with an election coming in December and whether or not the US would allow the deal to go through, the engine is a US-design engine) one has to wonder whether the Thai Air Force would look for another EW suite.
Every one knows that RMAF Sukhois are fitted with the same EW suite as the export version of the Gripens. Will RTAF spent extra money to integrate a new EW on its Gripens or would they risk the chance that their fighters would mistake our Flankers as a friendly? Perhaps they will consider fixing an Israeli made EW suite, probably cursing Malaysia at the same time for procuring the Gripen EW suite for the Flankers.
Furthermore, would the fickle minded Europeans allowed the Thais to get the full weapons suite from the IRIS WVR to the Meteor BVR, the RBS15 anti-ship missile and the Taurus cruise missile?
I do not want to be in the shoes of an RTAF Air Marshall when the Europeans came a calling with a to-do lists before giving the green light for the Gripens.
Personally, the Gripen was my first choice when the RMAF was looking for a new fighter for its fleet, surpassing even the Fuclrum, Hornets and the Flanker. I was informed previously that the Gripen was a possible candidate but it never passed the first round.
Reasons? It was not a very attractive aircraft when it comes to offsets and such. Too little number in service and with Swedish small industrial base (when I say small, its relative of course) it was not in OUR NATIONAL INTEREST to purchase it.
Moreover it was too expensive for our limited budget. The Thais only got 12 for USD1 billion.
We got 18 Flankers for some USD900 million together with a man in space. Who could ask for more? At least another Flanker of course but dont tell that to Dr Syeikh Muszaffar.
Thais to buy 12 Gripens for USD1 billion
BANGKOK (AFP) :: Thailand will purchase 12 Swedish-made jet fighters over the next decade for 34.4 billion baht ($1 billion), the head of the air force said Oct. 17.
The first lot of six JAS-39 Gripen fighters will be bought by 2011, with a second lot of six jets purchased by 2017, air force chief Chalit Phukphasuk told reporters.
The Gripens, manufactured by Sweden’s Saab, will replace aging American F-5E fighters, which will be rotated out of service in 2011, he added.
“It is necessary to purchase the new jet fighters to replace the retiring fighters, to boost the air force’s ability to protect the country,” he said.
Thailand had considered U.S.-made F-16s and Russian SU-30s before settling on the Swedish jets, Chalit said.
The deal includes spare parts and training for Thai pilots, with the first order valued at 19 billion baht, and the second half at 15.4 billion baht, he said.
In addition to heading the air force, Chalit has also taken over the leadership of the junta that seized power in a bloodless coup toppling prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006.
The coup leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, retired last month and has joined the government as a deputy prime minister.
Since the takeover, military spending has skyrocketed to 140 billion baht in the budget for 2008, up from 29 billion baht the year before the coup.
The jet purchase had been in the works under Thaksin’s government but was repeatedly held up by budget constraints. Thaksin had tried to work a deal to barter chickens or rice for the planes, but to no avail.
Now the military is on a shopping spree, ordering 96 Ukrainian armored vehicles for $133 million in August and looking at weapons from Israel.
The military has justified the burst of spending by arguing that Thai forces have been using equipment that dates to the Vietnam War, and that defense spending has been on hold since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.