Saab is playing down reports from Bangkok that Thailand’s military government has reached a decision in principle to purchase six JAS 39 Gripen fighters at a cost of $450 /Thailand’s interest in the Gripen dates to 2004, when the government of then-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came close to ordering 20 Gripens, according to a Ministry of Defense (MoD) source in /“There have been close contacts between Saab, senior Swedish government officials and Thailand since 2004,” the source said. “This situation hasn’t been changed by the military coup and overthrow of Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006. It would appear from the latest reports emanating from Thailand’s government and Air Force that there may be good news for Saab and the Gripen already this year, although it must be said that nothing is at all certain at this stage.”br /Thailand’s Ministry of Defense has maintained contacts with the Swedish government and Saab, the source /“Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to Sweden in September 2004 was a significant moment in cementing close relations between Thailand and the Gripen,” the MoD source said. “Shinawatra told the then-Swedish prime minister, Göran Persson, that Thailand favored buying Gripen to replace its F-16s and /“The Stockholm visit was followed up by regular meetings between Swedish officials and their Thai counterparts. There were Gripen test flights arranged, and intergovernment talks on a bilateral agreement that would attach to any sale.”br /The Shinawatra government appeared to lose some interest in the Gripen in 2005 and 2006, when the Ministry of Defense in Bangkok signaled that it might opt to purchase the Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters, produced by Sukhoi, for the Royal Thai Air /“What seems clear is that the military government in Thailand will not purchase all the new fighters it needs at once,” a Stockholm-based defense analyst said. “The total figure being mentioned is 12 fighters instead of 20, and it’s likely that the first order will be for six aircraft. The Thai Air Force’s present F-16s and F-5Es have been in service since the 1970s and are due to be taken out of service in 2008, so a decision on a replacement fighter is urgent.”br /It is unlikely that the Thai government has reached a final decision on its fighter replacement program, the analyst /“The Thai Air Force’s replacement proposal cited the JAS Gripen 39, the F-18, the F-16, the Su-30 and the Dassault Rafale as possible options,” the analyst /br /{Edited later}br /a href=””As of 18 October 2007 Thailand Decides to buy Gripens /a

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