Defence is in need of Gripen fighters
By Panya Thiewsangwan
Published on May 30, 2009
"As and when the economy improves and the country is in a position to earmark the budget for security-related procurement, the fighter jets will be bought and deployed," he said.
Prawit said he expected the Cabinet to approve the procurement plan in principle, pending the state of the economy, at its meeting next Tuesday
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday said his ministry would push for the Bt15.4-billion procurement of six Gripen fighter aircraft, although they would only be bought when the fiscal situation permitted such a costly purchase.
The procurement, if approved, will be spread over five years from the next fiscal year starting in October.
Prawit said the six Swedish jets, when added to the other Gripens already in deployment, would form a wing of 12 fighter aircraft, replacing the ageing F-5 jets that have been in service since 1966.
He said all military procurement plans had been put on hold in light of the economic downturn. However, the Air Force needs to have its budgetary plan approved in principle in order to make the necessary preparations for deployment of the aircraft.
The proposed Bt5-billion purchase of four search-and-rescue helicopters will be treated in the same way, the defence minister said.
The Air Force is eager that the public fully understands the ministry's procurement plan, said deputy spokesman Group Captain Monthon Satchukorn.
If the government deems it necessary, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Ithi**** Suphawong is willing to withdraw the plan in order to delay the Cabinet debate on the issue, Monthon said.
The plan has been forwarded to the Cabinet with an understanding that the budget would be approved in principle without actual disbursement of funds at this juncture, he added.