The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has successfully upgraded two of its legacy F-5TH aircraft incorporating modern technology from the fourth generation Gripen JAS 39 C/D multi-role combat aircraft as part of the air force’s initiative to modernise its 14 Northrop F-5E fighters.
The aircraft, equipped with German IRIS-T and Israeli Python 4 missiles, Italian radar and smart bombs, can work just as well as JAS 39 C/D Gripen fighter jets, air force chief Air Chief Marshal Maanat Wongwat told the media during a U1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) commissioning ceremony at Bangkok’s Don Muang air force base Nov 14. The U1 UAV is locally developed by the RTAF.
“This is a historic step by the Thai air force which wants to be more self-reliant,” ACM Maanat said.
Following the successful upgrade, he said, the RTAF plan to upgrade additional F-5 in stages.
The modernisation programme involving the 14 aircraft is expected to be completed by 2022 at a cost of 5.2 billion baht ($172 million), reports said. The air force is also planning to upgrade its fleet of Alpha Jet advanced trainers with a budget of 3.3 billion baht ($109 million).
He said the air force decided to modernise the decades-old aircraft due to lack of funds to procure new Gripen fighters. “We indeed want to add a fleet of Swedish-made Gripen to our existing 12 Gripen fighter jets, but we just don’t have a large enough budget,” the air force chief said.
Picture from ThaiArmedForce.com