Thailand Shelves Follow-on Gripen Acquisition

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The acquisition of six additional Swedish Gripen fighters by the Royal Thai Air Force has fell victim to the economic turmoil in Thailand. The Thai government decided to slash half a billion $US (20 billion Baht) off the current national defense budget, and most of the amount is expected to be saved by the elimination of about 15 billion baht, slated for the acquisition of the six additional Gripens.

Thailand has already acquired six Gripen fighter jets at a cost of 19 billion baht, to be delivered in 2010, replacing aging F-5 fighters scheduled to be decommissioned in 2011. While the decision is not likely to have a critical effect on the air force operations in the near term, since the Gripens has yet to entered operational service, it will have implications of the life cycle cost of the small fleet. The Thais will find that supporting such a small fleet will be extremely expensive and the operational benefit of only six aircraft will be questionable. Therefore, they are likely to revisit their decision in the future, as the economical and political conditions in the country improve.