ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation
Second phase of modernisation for 14 F-5T fighters in service since 1970s.
THE AIR Force on Tuesday won the Cabinet’s nod for its Bt3.2-billion upgrade programme for its fleet of 14 F-5T Tigris jet fighters, some of which have been in service since the late 1970s.
Under the latest programme, four aircraft would be overhauled and 10 would be fitted with radar and related equipment.
The upgrades would bring these veteran attack aircraft close to the capabilities of newer jet fighters such as the Swedish Gripen or even the larger F-16 models.
Air Force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Pongsak Semachai said the Bt3.2-billion budget is for the second and final phase of modernisation after the first phase costing about Bt2 billion was completed in 2014 for 10 jets. Due to the limited budget, radar improvements for these 10 aircraft were not included.
The Air Force needs Cabinet endorsement for a spending programme of more than Bt1 billion.
The upgrades will give the aircraft better performance and greater accuracy in firing its weapons.
The F5, introduced in the early 1960s by the US Air Force, has long been familiar to Thais and citizens of other countries that are allies of the United States.
Produced by Northrop Corp, the aircraft were popular arms exports in the older days due to their low price and operating cost.
Thailand acquired 20 of the first 45 original F-5 aircraft from 1979-80, so they are relatively old.
However, they have already gone through two major upgrades over the past decades to keep them in fighting condition.
The first batch of 20 F-5E/F fighters were stationed in the southern province of Surat Thani from 1979-80, while five F-5Es were added to the battalion in 1988.
In 1981, 20 F-5Es and F-5Fs were dispatched to the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani.
To keep them up-to-date, they underwent a major upgrade every 10 years. The first was in 1989 for 39 aircraft. The long-range Python-3 air-to-air missile system was also installed to boost the aircrafts’ combat capabilities.
While the F-5 jet fighters were well-received among US allies in Asia and other regions, they were never used in combat by the US.
From 2000 to 2003, 27 F-5Es and four F-5Fs were given the second major upgrade by an Israeli firm.
Of them, 16 had their safety system enhanced while 15 saw a second major upgrade to boost combat capabilities.
These 15 aircraft were significantly modified and renamed F-5T Tigris with sophisticated computer and weapon systems, including the Python-4 missile system.
While many of these aircraft were supposed to retire some time ago, the Air Force decided a few years ago to help save the state’s budget following a major flood by extending the lifespan of the remaining aircraft with another major upgrade.