Our Gripen jet fighters compatible to Thai system - Sweden
Sweden assured Thailand on Friday that its Gripen jet fighters were compatible with existing Thai air defence systems that are based mainly on American design.
The 12 Swedish-made Gripen jets plus two Saab Erieye AEW (airborne early warning) aircraft - are also compatible with Nato air defence systems.
"Since the aircraft is Nato compatible, the Gripen can carry a greater variety of weapons from different countries - including America - that the Thai Air Force already has," Swedish Ambassador Lennart Linner told a press briefing.
The package offered includes the same antiship missiles used by Sweden, he added.
The Cabinet approved the air force's proposal to buy the Swedish jets for Bt43.3 billion at its meeting on October 16, despite a note from the United States questioning the decision to switch from USmade F16 A/B fighters.
The Gripen is the same size as the F16 but is more advanced in terms of technology, with far better radar, the ability to use other sources of weapons, a better engine and more advanced electronic equipment, said LtColonel Johan Tornqvist, military liaison officer at the Swedish embassy.
The Gripen is more modern than the Russianmade Sukhoi SU30 that the Thai Air Force was earlier interested in, he added.
Also, Sweden has offered a special full package - notably the "source code" - that will allow the air force to modify or update the fighters' systems in future by itself, he said.
Ambassador Linner said the Gripen was one of the most modern aircraft in the world today - a multirole aircraft capable of ground attack, sea attack and interception.
"This aircraft can do 80 to 90 per cent of what other aircraft such as the Russian SU30 can do, but at less than half the price," he said.
The aircraft is designed to land on very narrow and short runways - less than 500 metres - and can even land on an ordinary country road just 11 metres wide, he said, which would be useful if a main airbase was under attack.
It is still not clear when the purchase deal will be completed.
Linner expected the Gripens to arrive by the time the Thai Air Force decommissions the Vietnam Warera F5 E fighters - by 2011.
Thailand is the first country in Asia to buy the Gripen fighter jets. Sweden hopes to sell 126 Gripens to India, but faces competition from the US, Russia, France and the Eurofighter.
by Supalak G Khundee