Will the Thai Air Force get more Gripen jets?

By: Valerie Insinna November 28, 2018

A pilot from the Royal Thai Air Force's Wing 7 walks to the Saab Gripen at Surat Thani Air Force Base on Nov. 28, 2018. (Valerie Insinna/Staff)

SURAT THANI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand — The Royal Thai Air Force’s Wing 7, home to all of the country’s Saab Gripen aircraft, wants more jets. The question is whether the country’s defense budget will allow for it, one official said Tuesday.

“As operators, we know that this is a very good aircraft, and we would love to have more,” said Group Capt. Prachya Tippayarat, deputy commander of the RTAF’s Wing 7. “But it’s just that I don’t know when. The Air Force will have to think about that.”

The RTAF currently operates 11 Gripen C/D fighter jets, bought from the Swedish government and manufactured by Saab. The Air Force lost one Gripen in a 2017 crash that destroyed the jet and killed the pilot.

With 11 jets left, it is more difficult to accomplish both training and maintenance, Tippayarat said.

“So of course we are looking for the replacement for the 12th one. It’s just a matter of when. As the operator, we cannot tell when we are going to have that aircraft,” he said, adding that the service might have other budget priorities.