“Everybody wants to fly a Gripen,” said Wing 7 deputy commander Group Captain Prachya Tippayarat, commenting on the abundance of potential recruits who want to become future Gripen pilots.
How did Gripen become a prized Thai fighter?
From forming a full-fledged fighter fleet to completing 10,000 flying hours, let’s take a look at the many milestones Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Gripen has achieved over a remarkable 10-year journey.
It all started in 2007 when the RTAF decided to introduce Gripen fighter aircraft into their Air Force. It was on February 2011 when the RTAF received their first batch of six Gripen fighters- two Gripen Cs and four Gripen Ds. However, another supplementary contract had already been signed in 2010 for a second batch of six Gripen C fighters which was delivered three years later in 2013.
In June 2011, The RTAF decided to carry out their plan to integrate a Network-Centric Defense Force to enhance interoperability between their military branches. On 11 September 2013, nearing the completion of the Gripen contract signed in 2010 with Sweden, the RTAF announced the Gripen Integrated Air Defense system as a fully operational part of the Air Force at its home base in Surat Thani.
According to 701 Squadron Wing Commander Kritsana Sukdee, the RTAF Gripen unit is “small, but powerful”, as represented by its Tiger Shark emblem. He also points to the importance of regular joint training with other Thai air force squadrons, noting: “There is everything you need to win the war.”
The Thai Gripen added another feather in its cap by debuting overseas at the 2014 Pitch-black exercise which was held in Australia. It was during their second appearance at the Pitch Black exercises last year in August when RTAF logged in 10,000 Gripen flight hours.
“For us as operators, the aircraft is very good, and we would love to have more,” said Tippayarat, following another decision made by RTAF last year in November to upgrade their Gripen C/D fighters to the latest MS20 configuration. “It’s just a matter of when,” he says.
Here’s hoping that the RTAF achieves many more milestones in the years to come, with Gripen by their side.
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