The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has officially declared its new air defence system, consisting of the Gripen fighter and Saab 340 Erieye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, operational.
The ceremony took place at the Wing 7 base in Surat Thani on Friday, Saab said in a statement. The new era for the RTAF began in 2008, when an agreement was signed between FMV, Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration and the RTAF, for the delivery of six Gripen C/D multi-role fighter aircraft to replace its outgoing F-5 aircraft. The order also included one Saab 340 Erieye AEW aircraft, a single Saab 340 for transport purposes and a ground based Command- and Control system. A further batch of six Gripen C fighters and another Saab 340 Erieye AEW was ordered in 2010. Deliveries of the second RTAF order will be completed in 2013.
The training of Thai personnel began in 2009. Four pilots and 20 technicians were trained by the Swedish Armed Forces (SwAF). Last year they were back in their home country and were ready to receive the first batch of aircraft. The first Saab 340 Erieye and the Saab 340 transport aircraft arrived in December last year, and the first batch of six Gripen fighters was flown from Sweden to Thailand in February this year.
Since the deliveries of the first batch of aircraft, a second batch of Thai Gripen pilots and technicians has graduated in Sweden.
Ten technicians have been trained in Sweden for a year and graduated last month. The first part of the course was conducted at the Armed Forces Technical School (Air Force) in Halmstad. Further training was carried out at F 7 Wing at Satenas, Sweden. Then it was all about hands-on training in how aircraft should be handled in the daily service, with preparation and maintenance work.
Six Thai F-16 pilots went to Satenas in February this year for a four month course to learn to fly the Gripen. Training takes place in simulators and in the two-seat Gripen D, before going solo. Next, pilots undergo Combat Readiness Training (CRT). During this phase, the pilots learn how to use the radar and weapons systems.
Present at the Wing 7 base in Surat Thani is also a support group with a number of technicians and pilots from the Swedish Air Force. Their task is to support the RTAF during the daily operations while the RTAF is introducing their new air defence equipment.
Apart from the Gripens, the RTAF’s main fighting force is made up of 50 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, according to the 2010 IISS Military Balance.