The JAS 39 Gripen E/F is preferred by the Thai Air Force over the F-16V.

The order for a dozen JAS 39 Gripen E/F by the Thai Air Force today appears as probable as it is imminent. Indeed, at the end of an evaluation process which pitted the Swedish fighter against the American F-16V from Lockheed Martin, it was the Gripen whose purchase was recommended by the Thai Chief of Staff. , to the country's defense minister.

A decision in favor of the Gripen E/F by the Thai authorities would mark the end of a long period which, since the Brazilian order in 2016, has been marked by numerous commercial failures, and growing doubts, as to the fighter's chances. Swedish, facing the couple formed by the American F-35A and F-16V.

The chaotic status of favorite JAS 39 Gripen E/F in Thailand

When the Royal Thai Air Force announced in 2020 its intention to modernize its fighter fleet, replacing 12 of its oldest F-16s, the Swedish Saab 39 Gripen E/F was naturally considered the big favorite of this fighter fleet. program.

Royal Thai air Force JAS 30 Gripen C/D elephant walk
Royal Thai Air Force JAS 30 Gripen C/D elephant walk

Indeed, in 2007, Bangkok turned to Stockholm to replace part of its F-5 Tiger II, ordering 6 JAS 39 Gripen, two C single-seaters and four D two-seaters, followed in 2010 by six other aircraft, all single-seaters this year. times.

The Swedish fighter was then considered, by the Thai Air Force, as the model at the center of its transformation, with the ambition of acquiring up to 40 aircraft. Moreover, in 2019, its chief of staff, Air Chief Marshal Maanat Wongwat, moved in this direction, excluding the possibility of turning to the F-35A.

In 2022, his successor, Air Chief Marshal Napadej, took the opposite view of this position, and announced his intention to acquire American F-35As, to modernize Thai hunting. According to him, the American device was cheaper than the Swedish Gripen, which was, obviously, very questionable to say the least, as Switzerland is experiencing it today.

However, whatever the arguments put forward by ACM Napadej, the possibilities for the Thai air forces to equip themselves with F-35As seemed very limited, not to say fanciful. Indeed, Bangkok had become much closer to Beijing in recent years, including in terms of the acquisition of military equipment. Under these conditions, there is no question of Washington authorizing the export of its technological flagship to Thailand.

Unsurprisingly, in 2023, the United States therefore rejected Bangkok's request, and proposed, as alternatives, the acquisition of F-16V or F-15EX. After an initial reaction of self-esteem, having raised fears of a shift of Thailand into the Chinese sphere of influence, the Thai air forces reorganized their forecasts, and turned again to the JAS 39 Gripen E/F, while Washington was pushing hard, including until the very last moment, with a leasing offer, to impose your F-16V.

Thai Air Force recommends acquisition of Gripen E/F to modernize its fighter fleet at the expense of F-16V

Despite American efforts, it is good the Swedish Gripen E/F, whose new chief of staff, ACM Phanphakdee, has just recommended the acquisition to the Ministry of Defense, at the end of a careful comparative evaluation against the American F-16V.

Gripen E Saab Sweden
The JAS 39 Gripen E/F can carry up to 6 tonnes while its internal fuel has been increased by 40% compared to the C/D version.

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