Thailand leans towards the Swedish Gripen: does the US F-16 still have a chance?

Gastón Dubois

Gripen E or F-16 Block 70 for Thailand?

To replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighters, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) would favor the purchase of Sweden’s Gripen over U.S. F-16s.

Air Force Commander-in-Chief ACM Phanphakdee Phattanakul sent all information on the Gripen E/F and F-16 Block 70 fighters for Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to compare and make a decision. As the Bangkok Post has learned, the commander recommended the Swedish solution.

ACM Phanphakdee explained, before the parliamentary committee considering the FY2025 budget bill, the progress of the fighter aircraft procurement plan. The RTAF needs to replace 12 aging F-16s in its fleet over the next few years, and by the final stage of the competition only bids from Sweden and the U.S. remained.

Gripen C y D Real Fuerza Aérea de Tailandia.
The RTAF has been operating a dozen Swedish Gripen C/D fighters for more than a decade. Photo: SAAB

In Parliament, the Air Force chief explained the selection process and outlined the pros and cons of the Gripen and F-16 proposals, including logistics support, technology transfer, financing and after-sales services offered by Saab AB and Lockheed Martin.

While the RTAF has reportedly already stated its preferred option, the final decision will be made by the Thai government. In this regard, the Bangkok Post reports that Mr. Sutin is preparing to visit the United States at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The defense minister was briefed last week by the U.S. ambassador on a new loan proposal to allow the Air Force to acquire more F-16s, but said the high interest rate concerned him.

F-16 Block 70/72 vs Gripen para reemplazar a los F-16 A/B tailandeses
F-16 A/B tailandese. Foto: RTAF

The Royal Thai Air Force has, at least on paper, 33 F-5E/Fs and 50 F-16 A/Bs that should be replaced during this decade, so it is very likely that the winning fighter of this competition will also be selected for subsequent orders.

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