F-35 cheaper than the Gripen?
The Royal Thai Air Force is considering the acquisition of new combat aircraft, and favors the Lockheed Martin F-35. Among the arguments, besides its advanced technology, it is argued that it has a cheaper acquisition price than the Saab Gripen.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Air Force ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya spoke of the need for a new fleet of fighter jets, as the F-5 and F-16 have been in service for more than three decades, and as the aircraft ages, maintenance costs and flight safety risks are likely to increase.
F-35 Lightning II planes, made by US defense giant Lockheed Martin, have become the better option now that costs have come down, as they have. fell to $ 82 million (2.7 billion baht) each, up from $ 142 million for the model when it was first released, ACM Napadej said.
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He added that the new Swedish-made Saab Gripen is priced at $ 85 million each, making the Lockheed Martin product more practical and within the reach of the Air Force. He even said that according to negotiations, the unit prices of the The F-35s can be downsized to just over $ 70 million each.
Recent F-35 Price Comparison
The price of $ 82 million per F-35A unit is close to what Lockheed Martin predicted as the Lot 12 aircraft. The same was comparable to the $ 77.9 million for the Lot 14 aircraft, which is still far from optimists $ 70 million mentioned by Commander Napadej Dhupatemiya.
But beyond the projections and wishful thinking, we can get a good idea of the real price of the F-35A from the Swiss and Finnish contracts.
Switzerland will pay 4.029 billion dollars for its 36 F-35A Block 4, an individual cost of almost $ 112 million for each aircraft.
Finland, on the other hand, will pay a purchase price of $ 5,349 million for 64 aircraft (also F-35A Block 4s), or just over 83 million USD per unit.
The price difference between what Switzerland and Finland pay for their F-35s may be due to the number of planes purchased and the financing conditions. In both contracts, the published cost refers to the cost of purchasing the aircraft., separate from the price of the weapons package or the logistics and support package.
It seems unlikely that Thailand will get better purchasing terms than Switzerland or Finland, for so few units. Additionally, the United States has yet to sell a single F-35 to a country that is not a staunch ally (Japan, South Korea, Australia, or Israel) or outside of Europe.
Why compare with Gripen?
The Saab Gripen E / F is a modern and efficient light fighter, generally considered one of the most economical exponents within Generation 4.5 fighter jets. Unfortunately, there isn’t up-to-date, publicly available information regarding the purchase price of a Gripen E, but $ 85 million is a figure repeated on various websites, and it seems reasonable.
What we know a little more is the cost per hour of flight, which is approximately $ 8,000. The USAF sets a current cost per flight hour for its F-35A fleet at $ 33,300, or slightly less. Therefore, compared to future batches of F-35, the Gripen would have a slightly higher purchase price, but significantly lower flight hour costs.
However, Swiss and Finnish authorities argued that the F-35 was the best cost / benefit investment, if the economy of its entire life cycle was taken into account.
In fact, the Finnish government report on the HX competition, in which Girpen E took part and Lightning II won, states that no offer was significantly cheaper than others in terms of operating and maintenance costs.
Not only the F-35 but also the Loyal Wingman
Commander-in-Chief Napadej said the Air Force is also interested in the latest modern air warfare technologies, especially those involving the Loyal Wingman, an unmanned aerial combat vehicle.
Developed by the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing, the unmanned aircraft flies as a team with other manned aircraft to provide support and can be equipped with different weapons and sensors.
“We don’t need a full fleet of F-35 planes. We can only use eight to twelve and use drones to fly alongside manned planes. ” “It will help reduce costs. It’s relatively new, but these technologies are likely to develop quickly, ”commented ACM Napadej.
As part of the scheme, the new fighters will be deployed from 1 Wing based in Nakhon Ratchasima, from which F-16A / B aircraft currently operate.