Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF) fleet of Saab Gripen fighter aircraft has completed a major milestone by clocking 10,000 flight hours.
According to a statement from RTAF, the Gripen fleet completed the milestone while participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2018, a biennial three week multinational air exercise conducted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet). The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. It is powered by the Volvo RM12, and has a top speed of Mach 2.
In 2007, Thailand’s Parliament authorized the Royal Thai Air Force to spend up to 34 billion baht (US$1.1 billion) as part of an effort to replace Thailand’s existing Northrop F-5 fleet. In February 2008, the Thai Air Force ordered six Gripens (two single-seat C-models and four two-seat D-models) from Saab; deliveries began in 2011. Thailand ordered six more Gripen Cs in November 2010; deliveries began in 2013.
In 2010, Thailand selected the Surat Thani Airbase as the main operating base for its Gripens and the first of the six aircraft were delivered on 22 February 2011.
Saab delivered three Gripens in April 2013, and three more in September 2013. An RTAF JAS-39 Gripen crashed at Hat Yai Airport, Thailand, during an airshow for Thailand’s national Children’s Day on Jan. 14 last year.
In September 2013, Air Force Marshal Prajin Jantong stated that Thailand is interested in purchasing six aircraft more in the near future, pending government approval. Thailand may eventually order as many as 40 Gripens.