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Thailand purchases six Gripen aircraft equipped with ‘world’s safest engine’

Sweden and Thailand have signed a contract covering delivery of six Gripen aircraft. As a consequence of the agreement, The Thai Air Force will be able to replace its F-5 aircraft in the beginning of 2011.
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This also means that Thailand will receive Gripen aircraft equipped with Volvo Aero’s RM12 engine, which recently surpassed 100,000 flight hours without an engine-related incident or accident.

At a ceremony in Stockholm recently, representatives of the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) signed an agreement covering delivery of six Gripen aircraft in the latest models and an airborne early warning (AEW) system.

The RTAF will receive six of the latest C- and D-model aircraft, all of which equipped with Volvo Aero’s RM12 engine, which recently surpassed 100,000 flight hours. Notably in this context, the single-engine Gripen aircraft has not experienced a single engine-related accident or incident during these 100,000 hours. This is probably unique for all air forces worldwide.

 “I think this must be a hard record to beat for a single-engine application,” says Rune Hyrefeldt, Director Military Programs at Volvo Aero.

The engine in the Gripen, the RM12, is based on the General Electric F404 that Volvo Aero’s and GE’s engineers adapted for the Gripen’s needs in the 1980s. Since then, Volvo Aero has successively worked to reduce cost of ownership and increase safety:

  • Among other features, Volvo Aero has designed a new afterburner flameholder that drastically reduces operating costs and increases availability. The new flameholder does not have to be replaced as often as its predecessor and it can be replaced faster and easier.
  • Volvo Aero has also designed a new welded front frame for the RM12 that facilitates lower costs and increased availability. Previously, the engine required inspection every 50 flight hours, now this is carried out during regular service.
  • The company has also developed a FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control) system that optimizes operations, provides the possibility to reduce fuel consumption and is simultaneously used for trouble-shooting.

 “The sum of the first 100,000 hours with the RM12 in the air is that the engine meets all the requirements placed by FMV and the Air Force by a wide margin, in terms of operating costs, reliability and operational performance,” says Rune Hyrefeldt.

Work is under way at Volvo Aero on the last RM12 engine to the Swedish Air Force, Thereafter, production, assembly and testing will apply to engines destined for the South African Air Force. This work is expected to be concluded in 2011.