Thais reviewing fighter search

Feb. 26, 2007 at 12:32 PM
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BANGKOK, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Thailand's air force is reconsidering options for new jet fighters to replace its ageing F-16 and F-5 aircraft.

Air Force chief Chalit Phukphasuk said he was now seriously looking at updated F-16s from the United States and Sweden's JAS-39 Gripen fighters, according to The Bangkok Post Monday.

Chalit was quoted by the newspaper as having said the review is a result of the removal last September of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which was pressuring him to select Russian SU-30 aircraft.

"Now there is no pressure for us to go for the SU-30s," Chalit reportedly said. "Each of the jet models is fine, but we have to pick one that best fits our requirement."

Thaksin, accused of corruption, was removed in a bloodless military coup.

Chalit said Thaksin had threatened to sack him as air force chief if he did not pursue a deal with the Russians, who were offering eight helicopters for free as part of a deal.

Chalit said Thailand would purchase new fighter aircraft in fiscal year 2008.

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