Sweden pitches fighter jets for kingdom
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Sweden pitches fighter jets for kingdom

A Gripen C fighter jet being considered as replacements for ageing F16 in the air force squadron. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)
A Gripen C fighter jet being considered as replacements for ageing F16 in the air force squadron. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)

SWEDEN: The Swedish Aeroplane Corporation recently opened up its headquarters in Stockholm to talk about replacing Thailand's ageing F-16s with SAAB's Gripen fighter jets.

SAAB opened its Stockholm headquarters and the House of Gripen to reporters from Thailand for a press tour of the facilities.

At the House of Gripen, the Bangkok Post was shown the Gripen E/F manufacturing line to see how the fighter jets are produced.

The site featured a Gripen E flight simulator complete with accurate representation of the fighter jet's modern nautical control techno- logy.

The Gripen E/F model was one of the choices made by the Royal Thai Air Force in its 19-billion-baht fighter jet procurement plan, with a source earlier disclosing it to be the force's preferable model over the F-16 from the United States.

RTAF commander ACM Phanphakdee Phatthanakul and other officials involved in defence visited Sweden earlier last month to hold talks with SAAB to discuss a deal.

Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, chair of the House Committee on the Armed Forces, at the end of last month also visited the supplier for the same reason.

Robert Björklund, Gripen Thailand campaign director, said the Swedish Aeroplane Corporation plans to offer additional features with the RTAF's Gripen, including a fully networked sensor fusion and three types of advanced radars.

These include the Raven ES-05-AESA, Skyward G-IRST and Mode 5-IFF, he said.

Regarding the tactical data link systems, Mr Björklund said that the Gripen E/F is compatible with both the Link-16 data link system and the Royal Thai Air Force-developed Link-TH system.

SAAB had planned to propose that the RTAF develop its own national datalinks, a radio communication system for the jet, as it would provide more flexibility to the fighter jet's users while preventing any confidential data from being leaked to other territories.

"SAAB will deliver resilient air power for the RTAF to be the state of global air power collectively," said Mr Björklund.

Frans Unosson, Director Industrial Cooperation Gripen Marketing and Sales Business Area Aeronautics at SAAB, said the Gripen procurement plan grabbed public attention not only in Thailand but also in Sweden.

He said that the procurement plan is now a priority for Sweden, which further enhances government support for Swedish industry investments in Thailand.

An investment through its extensive offset package might help increase military self-reliance, which benefits national security, he said.

"Gripen for Thailand will further strengthen the long-term cooperation between our nations and the independence of Thailand," Mr Unosson said.

Mr Unosson said he saw the procurement as a long-term investment that would help not only in defence but also a nation's economic growth.

Sweden has consistently invested in Thailand, with at least 128 billion baht in export values contributing to the economy, he said.

In January, Marcus Wallenberg, CEO of SAAB, and Mr Unosson met Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin during the World Economic Forum to discuss investments in Thailand.

A technology transfer plan for the maintenance of the SAAB aircraft was also included for RTAF's Thailand Aviation Industry.

"The values generated will meet the Thai Defence Offset policy of at least 100% of the Thai investment in Gripen," said Mr Unosson.

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