More than 50 Bangkok based Thai journalists and photographers flew to RTAF Wing 7 in Surat Thani to join local media and dignitaries from Surat Thani province when the Royal Thai Airforce arranged its annual press tour 2010 for domestic media in Thailand. The theme was RTAF´s Gripen project.
Six Gripen C/D made by Saab arrive at Wing 7 early 2011 while one SAAB 340 AEW aircraft outfitted for RTAF will be delivered late this year to the air base.
Included in the package is pilot and technician training in Sweden, and an advanced air defence infrastructure to Thailand, which together with the new aircraft creates a strong network centric operations environment for RTAF. RTAF´s delegation to Wing 7 was led by Air Force Commander ACM Ittaporn Supawong and RTAF Chief of Staff ACM Prachin Jantong.
After initial remarks by ACM Ittaporn, one of the RTAF Gripen pilots, Wing Commander Charoen Watanasrimongkol, described the training programme he and his three collegues undergo in Sweden in order to become fully fledged Gripen pilots. He was followed by Wing 7 Commander, Group Captain Saritporn Suntornkit, who gave a presentation to the press about the general progress of the project at Wing 7.
The Thai press was also shown ongoing construction of new hangars and other buildings that will host the SAAB/Gripen aircraft, command and control center and other support functions at Wing 7.
The traditional group photo of media representatives and air force officials taken outside one of the new buildings that will support RTAF´s Gripen and Saab aircraft at Wing 7 in Surat Thani. RTAF Commander ACM Ittaporn Supawong, front row in the middle.
About the Thai agreement
In 2008, Thailand ordered a complete aircraft and command and control system from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in a Government to Government deal. The order includes a first batch of six Gripen C/D with associated equipment and service, one Saab 340 aircraft equipped with Erieye radar (AEW), a Saab 340 for transport and training plus an integrated command and control system with data links.