During a ceremony on July 8, 2011 the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officially declared its new air defence system consisting of the Gripen fighter and Saab 340 Erieye AEW operational. The ceremony took place at the Wing 7 base in Surat Thani.
The new era for the RTAF began in 2008, when an agreement was signed between FMV, Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration and the RTAF, for the delivery of six Gripen C/D multi-role fighter aircraft to replace its outgoing F-5 aircraft. The order also included one Saab 340 Erieye AEW, a single Saab 340 for transport purposes and a ground based Command- and Control system. A further batch of six Gripen C fighters and another Saab 340 Erieye AEW was ordered in 2010. Deliveries of the second RTAF order will be completed in 2013.
The training of Thai personnel began in 2009. Four pilots and 20 technicians were trained by the Swedish Armed Forces (SwAF). In 2010 they were back in their home country and were ready to receive the delivery of the first batch of aircraft. The first Saab 340 Erieye AEW and the Saab 340 transport aircraft arrived in December 2010, and the first batch of six Gripen fighters was flown from Sweden to Thailand in February 2011.
Since the deliveries of the first batch of aircraft, a second batch of Thai Gripen pilots and technicians has graduated from their training in Sweden.
Ten technicians have been trained in Sweden for a year and graduated in June 2011. The first part of the course was conducted at the Armed Forces Technical School (Air Force) in Halmstad. There, the basic technical knowledge of aircraft and its various subsystems. The second part of the training was carried out at F 7 Wing at Såtenäs, Sweden. Then it was all about hands-on training in how aircraft should be handled in the daily service, with preparation and maintenance work.
The six Thai ex F-16 pilots came to Såtenäs in February 2011 for a four months course on Gripen. The first part of the course is called Conversion Training (CT) and is to learn to fly the Gripen. Training takes place in simulators and in the two-seat Gripen D, before it's time for the student to carry out his first solo flight. The CT is followed by the Combat Readiness Training (CRT). During this phase, the pilots learn how to use the radar and weapons systems.
Present at the Wing 7 base in Surat Thani is also a support group with a number of technicians and pilots from the Swedish AF. Their task is to support the RTAF during the daily operations while the RTAF is introducing their new air defence system.