Air Force Chief Vows to Test Fly Gripen Jets

Thailand’s air force commander Tuesday vowed to test fly six Swedish-made Gripen jet fighters in person once they are safely delivered next month, media reports said.
Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn Subbawong said the six jets were due for delivery on February 23.

‘As a fighter pilot I want to make test flights of the fighters,’ he told the Bangkok Post online news service.

The air force has decided to purchase 12 Gripen fighters at a cost of almost 40 billion baht (1.3 billion dollars).

Itthaporn was promoted to air force commander in the annual military reshuffle in September.

The military has gone on a buying spree since its September 2006 coup, purchasing a variety of new items including British-made GT-200 bomb detectors that proved less effective than sniffer dogs and a helium balloon that has yet to get off the ground.

Besides the Swedish jets, the army is expecting 10 Ukrainian-made armoured personnel carriers, or APCs, later this month.

Military expenditure jumped from 2.3 billion dollars in 2006 to about 4.4 billion dollars last year, according to Thai media estimates.

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