After a long-running procurement saga, the Royal Thai Air Force has selected the Saab Gripen to replace its elderly Northrop F-5 fighter fleet. The deal also covers the supply of airborne early warning aircraft to bolster the nation’s air defenses. The Thai government revealed the selection in Bangkok on October 16, announcing that the Cabinet had approved a total budget of 34.4 billion baht ($1.1 billion) for 12 Gripens and two Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft equipped with Saab Microwave Systems Erieye radar.
The Gripen procurement is to be undertaken in two phases, the first covered in the 2008-2012 budget, which provides 19 billion baht ($600 million) for six Gripens and one Erieye system, plus spare parts and training. The second phase allocates 15.4 billion baht ($500 million) of the 2013-2017 budget for another batch of six fighters and the second Erieye platform. Although the deal has been agreed upon, formal contracts have yet to be signed. The Gripen is due to enter RTAF service in 2010.