The first three Gripen aircraft made for RTAF will arrive in Thailand in January 2011 and the remaining three RTAF Gripen are due in March 2011. Training of pilots, technicians and ground support staff is a vital part of RTAF’s preparations for Gripen and much of this education is taking place in Sweden.
Technicians and aviation mechanics responsible for maintenance and support of the aircraft, have traveled to the Armed Force Technical School (Air Force) in Halmstad. Later this group will continue their training operational duties at Wing 7 in Såtenäs and Wing 17 in Ronneby. Såtenäs is also the Gripen Training Center for Swedish Air Force pilots, as well as for foreign Gripen pilots.
RTAF selected 10 pilots for Gripen training in Sweden. The first group of four pilots – Wng Cdr. Jakkrit Thamvichai squadron leader, Wng Cdr. Charoen Watanasrimongkol, Wng Cdr. Nattawut Duang Sungngoen and Wng Cdr. Puttapong Polchiwin – train in Sweden from March 2010 to December 2010, following a curriculum for instructor pilots, while the second group, six pilots, follow soon for approximately 5 months training.
The latter six will receive further training in Thailand after all ten pilots return home in January 2011 together with the three first Gripen aircraft.
At the outset, all RTAF instructor pilots in Sweden undergo a 6 week theory segment. Here pilots learn about Gripen´s modern technology, its construction as well as its engine, avionics systems, communication systems and other systems.
As soon to be instructor pilots, the first four RTAF pilots need to understand a number of flight systems in detail, control the aircraft, take off and tactical flying. All in all the pilots go through roughly 20 hours of simulator training. Following , 4 flights with an instuctor before they make their first solo flight. All four Thai pilots flew their maiden solo flights on 22 April, after which Major General Anders Silwer, Commander of the Swedish Air Force, joined to congratulate them at Wing 7 at Såtenäs.
Training then continues with operation air to air, operation air to ground, reconnaiscance, continued operation training multirole and instructor pilot training.
A pilot in the instructor pilot programme must have suitable basic experience from flying fighter aircraft. Any F-16 pilot from RTAF are able to become a pilot instructor and should have a minimum experience of, up to 600-700 flying hours, and been group leader before being considered for the pilot instructor programme. Gripen pilots have passed the second level as group leader and some are even instructor pilots on F-16 and F-5 as well. Therefore when they have gone through conversion training, and are ready to fly and fight with Gripen, it is also easy to get on, up to instructor pilot level, which apart from knowing how fly on their own, they must also be able to transfer knowledge and technics to coming pilots.
The first two years after Gripen´s arrival at Wing 7 in Surat Thani Swedish pilot instructors and technicians will be posted in Thailand to assist and advise the Thais. The six Gripen at Wing 7 are expected to be fully operational around September 2011.
Gripen will be the newest and most modern fighter aircraft in Asia when RTAF bring them into service as the first country on the continent.