Thailand to Buy 12 Sukhoi Fighters?
The Moscow Times newspaper reports that Russia has signed a preliminary agreement to sell 12 two-seat, multirole Sukhoi SU-30MK fighter jets to Thailand in a deal worth $500 million in cash and in kind. The source for the report was an unnamed Irkut official who claims the memorandum of understanding was signed at the Asian summit in Malaysia, and added that the deal also includes some helicopters. Irkut spokesmen declined to comment when asked by Agence France Presse. Interfax news agency reported that a definitive contract on the sale would be signed toward the middle of 2006, and that Bangkok would pay part of the bill in kind by delivering various products to Russia for resale on international markets. Read the full article at SpaceWar.com.
The Royal Thai Air Force generally flies American machines, and allegations of corruption are part of the domestic controversy that now swirls around this reported buy…
At present, Thailand’s fighter fleet consists of old A-7 Corsair variants and F-5E/F Tiger IIs, plus AV-8S Harrier IIs and F-16A/B fighters. A number of its neighbors are currently flying longer-range and more advanced SU-27/30 Flanker fighters, however, including India (SU-30MK & SU-30MKI), Indonesia (SU-27SK & SU-30MK), Malaysia (SU-30MKM), Vietnam (SU-27SK), and China (SU-27SK/J-11 & SU-30MKK).
To redress this capabilities gap, the Thai government was looking at either modernizing or supplementing its 60 Lockheed-Martin F-16s, buying or leasing the BAE/Saab JAS-39 Gripen, or buying the larger, longer-range, multi-role SU-30 from Russia despite its maintenance, avionics, and weapons disconnects with the rest of their fleet.
On the Russian front, a recent DID article offers help understanding the complex interrelationships in the Russian defense industry that have Sukhoi fighters sold by Irkut. See also EADS’ recent 10% stake in Irkut Corp.
UPDATE: After the Sept 19/06 coup in Thailand, the SU-30 deal was scrapped and the government decided to buy 12 JAS-39 Gripen fighters and 2 S-1000 Erieye AWACS aircraft instead. As DID’s coverage explains, however, this one isn’t over yet.