- The RTAF is looking to upgrade its Saab Gripens
- The plan, however, does not yet appear to be a fully funded programme
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is looking to upgrade its fleet of 11 Saab JAS 39 Gripen C/D multirole combat aircraft to the MS20 configuration.
"We are planning to upgrade the Gripens to the MS20 standard. We have seen the capabilities of the current standard and it would do everything we need," Group Captain Prachya Tippayarat, deputy commander of the RTAF's Wing 7 at Surat Thani Air Base, told Jane's on 27 November. However, no details were provided as to when the upgrade would take place.
According to Saab, the move, which would involve hardware and software upgrades, is designed to enhance the Gripens' ability to engage ground targets by incorporating unguided and laser-guided bombs into the aircraft's payload inventory. The platform's air-to-air capability would also be enhanced by the introduction of new radar modes. The MS20 standard, which offers an optional ground collision avoidance system (GCAS), would additionally enable the aircraft to fire MBDA's Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
The RTAF officially stood up its Swedish-sourced integrated air defences in July 2011, a few months after receiving its first six Gripens at Surat Thani in southern Thailand. Two years later the service received its second and final batch of Gripen aircraft. In January 2017 one aircraft was lost in a crash, which the service is now seeking to replace. However, no timeline for this has been announced.
Thailand's air-defence system consists of the Gripen fighters, two Saab 340 Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, and an associated ground-based command-and-control facility. Tactical datalinks connecting these assets with others in the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) were provided by local industry in collaboration with Saab in a bid to create a network-centric air force.
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