Thailand shows off upgraded F-5TH fighters | News | Flight Global:
By Greg Waldron
11 February 2020
A modernised version of the venerable Northrop F-5 has made its debut at this year’s Singapore show, with the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) displaying a pair of aircraft upgraded to the new TH standard.
The F-5TH was commissioned into Thai service in late 2019 and are operated by the service’s 211 Sqn from Ubon air base, located near the Cambodian border in the east of the country.
|Source: Greg Waldron - A two-seat F-5TH at the Singapore air show|
Modification work on the original F-5E was conducted in Thailand and includes the addition of a new Elbit Systems avionics suite and an all-glass cockpit. The aircraft also gain a Leonardo Grifo active electronically scanned array, which also allows a slightly shorter nose.
Crucially, the F-5THs also feature the Link-T datalink, allowing close co-operation with other RTAF assets such as the Saab Gripen C/D and Erieye.
The addition of the new equipment has required some major changes, however. The single-seater at the show has had one of its 20mm cannons removed, while the two-seater has lost both of its guns.
Upgrades will be applied to 10 aircraft, enabling them to stay in service until the 2030s.
Super Tigris modernization
The current Super Tigris modernization goes further and brings them to a high equipment standard that the RTAF describes as a “4.5 generation fighter.” The upgrade of 10 aircraft was authorized in 2014 and another four in 2017. They serve with 211 Squadron at Ubon Ratchathani.
Both Tigris and Super Tigris upgrades are provided by Elbit Systems of Israel, drawing on the company’s experience with a number of other international F-5 update efforts, such as the Brazilian F-5EM/FM upgrade with Leonardo Grifo-F radar and Chile’s F-5 Tiger III Plus variant that has the Elta EL/M-2032 radar, both of which feature Israeli weapon options. Some years ago Singapore also upgraded its F-5E/Fs (as F-5S/Ts) with Grifo-F radar, Israeli missiles, and Elbit computers, but the fleet was retired in 2015.
The Super Tigris program has upgraded most elements of the F-5, including a structural life extension from 7,200 to 9,600 hours, giving them another 15 years of service, according to the RTAF. A revamped cockpit features two multifunction color displays, a new head-up display and upfront control panel, a new environmental control system, and a digital video recorder. The pilot is provided with Elbit’s DASH IV helmet-mounted sight.
In terms of communications the Super Tigris is equipped with ARC-164 Have Quick II jam-resistant radios and Thailand’s own Link-T datalink system. This allows the F-5s to be linked into the air defense command and control network that also includes the F-16s, Saab Gripen fighters of 701 Squadron, and Saab 340 AEW aircraft of 702 Squadron.
Super Tigris F-5s have a new radar that offers beyond-visual-range air-to-air capability and a synthetic aperture radar mode that produces high-resolution “patch maps” for accurate air-to-surface targeting. The radar type has not been disclosed but is widely believed to be the EL/M-2032. The Super Tigris aircraft can also carry the Rafael Litening III electro-optic/laser targeting pod and the Rafael Sky Shield jamming pod. Matching these new sensors are new weapons from Israel, including the Elbit Lizard laser-guided bomb. While the Rafael Python IV imaging infrared short-range air-to-air missile was introduced with the Tigris upgrade, the Super Tigris adds Python V and the active-radar Rafael Derby.
Thailand’s first Super Tigris was unveiled in a ceremony at Ubon Ratchathani by the RTAF commander, Air Chief Marshal Jom Roongsawang, on May 23, 2018. The occasion also marked the 40th anniversary of the F-5 in Thai service. During its career, the aircraft has seen action in border clashes with Cambodia in the 2000s, and in the 1980s clashes with Laos during the Baan Rom Klao conflict. Source: ainonline.com
Thai UAV Surprises at Singapore Show
Nestling between the two F-5TH Super Tigris fighters of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is an example of the RTAF U-1 unmanned air system. The Thai UAS was developed in-country, based on the RTAF’s own Tiger Shark II and the R V Connex Sky Scout vehicle, both of which were projects overseen by the Thai defense ministry’s Defence Technology Institute. Seventeen U-1 air vehicles have been built by R V Connex for the RTAF and now serve with 206 Squadron at Watthana Nakhon. In January 2019, the Royal Thai Navy announced its intention to acquire the type. Source: ainonline.com
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