The final three JAS 39 Gripens for the Royal Thai Air Force were to arrive today at their new home of Surat Thani airbase in southern Thailand. A lightning strike to one of the aircraft prevented this however.
The three Gripens are now in India and will continue on to Thailand on Wednesday. The delivery completes the Thai order for twelve JAS 39C/D aircraft with Saab. The Gripens are flown in Thailand by 701st squadron ‘Sharks’, part of the 7th wing at Surat Thani.
The Royal Thai Air Force ordered its Gripens in 2007 as replacements for older F-5 aircraft. The Thai decision was sparked by neighbouring countries – like India, Malaysia, China and Indonesia – acquiring Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft in all shapes and sizes.
The first Saabs were flown to Thailand in February 2011, while a further three followed last April. The Royal Thai Air Force also flies the Saab 340, one of which is fitted with the Erieye radar, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (
The aircraft that was hit by lightning, sustained only minor damage. Nobody was injured.
Update Wednesday September 4: according to several sources, at least two Gripens arrived today in Surat Thani, Thailand.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest