Air force chooses Swedish jets over US F-16s
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Air force chooses Swedish jets over US F-16s

Commander forwards report comparing two options to defence minister and PM for final say

Pilots from Royal Thai Air Force Wing 7 fly two Gripen jets over the Andaman Sea in June 2011. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn)
Pilots from Royal Thai Air Force Wing 7 fly two Gripen jets over the Andaman Sea in June 2011. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn)

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has opted to procure Gripen fighter jets from Sweden over US-made F-16s, according to a source in the air force.

ACM Phanphakdee Phattanakul, the air force commander, has forwarded details about the Gripen E/F and F-16 Block 70 jets for comparison to Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to make a decision. The commander has recommended they choose the Swedish aircraft, the source said on Wednesday.

ACM Phanphakdee and military top brass went to parliament on Wednesday to explain their spending plans to the House committee considering the budget bill for the 2025 fiscal year that starts on Oct 1.

Asked about progress on the jet fighter procurement plan, the air force commander said he had discussed it with Mr Sutin on Tuesday.

During the discussion, he said, he explained the selection process and outlined the pros and cons of the Gripen and the F-16, including the additional support the air force would receive from their respective manufacturers, Saab AB and Lockheed Martin.

The minister would forward the information to the prime minister on Wednesday, said ACM Phanphakdee.

Once a decision is made, it will be up to the prime minister to decide whether he or Mr Sutin will explain to the public, said the air force chief.

“The air force has yet to conclude which type of jet fighters it would choose,” he said.

The air force needs to replace 12 ageing F-16s in its fleet over the next few years, and it has been lobbied by both Swedish and American officials to choose their planes.

Mr Sutin is reportedly preparing to visit the United States at the invitation of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The defence minister was briefed last week by the US ambassador about a loan proposal to allow the air force to acquire more F-16s, but he said the high interest rate concerned him.

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