27 Januari 2010
JAS-39 Gripen (photo : TAF)
RTAF Seeks B20bn Jet Fleet Budget
The air force is seeking cabinet approval to buy six more Gripen jet fighters and upgrade six F-16 fighters at a combined cost of more than 20 billion baht.
Royal Thai Air Force deputy spokesman Monthon Satchukorn yesterday said a proposal had been submitted to cabinet to buy the Gripens for about 15.4 billion baht and upgrade the F-16 fighters at a cost of about 6.9 billion baht.
The air force hopes the submission will be approved by the cabinet today.
Gp Capt Monthon said the RTAF wanted the cabinet to approve the two projects in principle first so it had enough time to prepare its 2011 fiscal budget, which will be considered in May.
The two projects have been on hold since they were withdrawn from a cabinet meeting in May last year.
Gp Capt Monthon said: "If we cannot buy the Gripen fighters under the 2011 fiscal budget, this will affect the air force's operations planning."
He said the air force originally planned to upgrade 18 F-16 fighters at a cost of more than 20 billion baht.
The project was revised and will now be carried out in three phases of upgrading six F-16 fighters each time at a cost of 6.9 billion baht.
F-16 A/B fighters from Nakhon Sawan-based Wing 4 would be upgraded in the first phase, Gp Capt Monthon said.
"The air force is badly in need of the two projects," he said.
A military source said air force commander Itthaporn Subhawong met Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday to discuss the two projects.
The source said Mr Suthep reassured ACM Itthaporn the cabinet would approve the projects in principle with the budget arranged and disbursed later.
The air force had hoped to decommission its 12 US-made F-5 E/F fighters, in operation at the Surat Thani-based Wing 7 for 30 years, once it took commission of 12 new Gripen 39 C/D fighter jets.