Friday, August 20, 2010

Gripen, AEWs Heading For Thailand Soon


NEW DELHI AND LONDON — The Royal Thai Air Force is slated to receive its Saab 340-based Erieye airborne early warning system in December.

The aircraft, along with a regular Saab 340 due to be handed over at the same time, are part of a larger Thai acquisition of an air defense system that has six Gripen C/D fighters at its core. Delivery of the fighters and a command and control system, with three ground-based radio controller sites, are to take place in March to Squadron 701 of the 7th Wing.

At a ceremony at Saab’s factory in Linköping in Sweden this week, the company unveiled an integrated air defense system for Asian customers. Thailand signed the contract in early 2008, which covers the early warning aircraft, Gripens, and command and control system. The system has been procured in a framework of bilateral cooperation mainly focused on technology transfer.

“I want to congratulate Thailand for an excellent air defense system and I look forward to our continued cooperation” says Sten Tolgfors, Swedish defense minister.

Ten Thai pilots, technicians and aviation mechanics responsible for maintenance and support of the aircraft have started their training at a technical school in Halmstad and at Såtenäs, which is also the Gripen Training Center for Swedish Air Force pilots.

The first two years after Gripen’s arrival in Surat Thani, Thailand, Swedish pilot instructors and technicians will assist and advise the Thais. The six Gripens are expected to be fully operational around September 2011.

Gripen is in service with the Swedish, Czech, Hungarian, and South African air forces, and in Thailand. The U.K. Test Pilots School is operating the Gripen as its advanced fast jet platform for test pilots worldwide. Gripen is fully NATO-compatible and can be deployed globally. Thailand is expected to grow its Gripen fleet to at least 12 fighters.

- Neelam Mathews

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