The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is seeking government approval to upgrade four more Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters, adding to the 10 that have been modernized since 2015. Rafael of Israel is providing most of the new avionics and weapons.
The upgrade is known as the Super Tigris, and the RTAF hopes it will extend the airframe life of its F-5s from 7,200 to 9,600 hours, or an additional 15 years. The fleet has already undergone two major upgrades since the type entered service in 1978. The last upgrade made the Thai F-5s compatible with the Python 4 short-range missile and DASH IV helmet mounted sight, as well as Hands On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS).
The latest Phase II upgrade aims to give the Tiger beyond-visual-range capabilities, and multiple Thai sources believe that Elta’s EL/M-2032 radar will be fitted and certified with Python 5 and Derby BVR missiles; the Litening 3 targeting pod; Sky Shield jamming pod; and Link-T datalink. Link-T is RTAF’s own network, developed in a joint venture between Thailand’s Avia and Saab, and is currently found on the RTAF’s JAS-39 Gripen and F-16A/B MLU fighters.
The cockpit avionics will be changed to two multifunction color displays; have Quick II frequency hopping radio; and a digital video and data recorder (DVDR) installed. The total cost for Phase II is estimated to be approximately $96.1 million.
A Thai source estimates that the first upgraded F-5 will be rolled out in the last quarter of this year.
On August 29, Elbit Systems said that it had won an F-5 upgrade contract worth $93 million from "an Asia-Pacific country."
additional reporting by Chris Pocock