Thailand will purchase 12 Swedish-made jet fighters over the next decade for 34.4 billion baht ($1 billion), the head of the air force said Oct. /The first lot of six JAS-39 Gripen fighters will be bought by 2011, with a second lot of six jets purchased by 2017, air force chief Chalit Phukphasuk told /The Gripens, manufactured by Sweden’s Saab, will replace aging American F-5E fighters, which will be rotated out of service in 2011, he /”It is necessary to purchase the new jet fighters to replace the retiring fighters, to boost the air force’s ability to protect the country,” he /Thailand had considered U.S.-made F-16s and Russian SU-30s before settling on the Swedish jets, Chalit /The deal includes spare parts and training for Thai pilots, with the first order valued at 19 billion baht, and the second half at 15.4 billion baht, he /In addition to heading the air force, Chalit has also taken over the leadership of the junta that seized power in a bloodless coup toppling prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September /The coup leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, retired last month and has joined the government as a deputy prime /Since the takeover, military spending has skyrocketed to 140 billion baht in the budget for 2008, up from 29 billion baht the year before the /The jet purchase had been in the works under Thaksin’s government but was repeatedly held up by budget constraints. Thaksin had tried to work a deal to barter chickens or rice for the planes, but to no /Now the military is on a shopping spree, ordering 96 Ukrainian armored vehicles for $133 million in August and looking at weapons from /The military has justified the burst of spending by arguing that Thai forces have been using equipment that dates to the Vietnam War, and that defense spending has been on hold since the 1997 Asian financial /br /Read previous post about this topic a href=””here/a

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