Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cabinet to Consider Approving Pricey Military Gift List

06 April 2011

RTAF CH-47 Chinook large helicopter (photo : Asiafinest)

The Army has finalised its weapons shopping list, and is expected to seek Cabinet approval for the billions of baht it will cost by next month, before the House of Representatives is dissolved ahead of a general election.

The biggest item will be 200 new medium tanks to replace, on a unitbyunit basis, vintage US M41 tanks. The specifications of the new tanks have not been officially provided, but the main condition is that they must still be commissioned by the army of the manufacturing country.

Another 82 BTR3E1 wheeled armoured personnel carriers, made in Ukraine and worth Bt4 billion, are to be handed over to the Army, and a further 121 BTR3E1s, worth Bt5 billion, will be purchased in a later phase.

There are 14 BTR3E1s currently in Thailand. Four are being disassembled and studied by the Army's Weapons Production Department, and 10 have been commissioned with a 2nd Army Division unit based in Prachin Buri.

A demonstration of the BTR3E1 APCs is planned for some time in the next few months, reportedly to deter media criticism of the vehicles.

Three Russianmade medium Mi17V5 helicopters, worth Bt994 million, are also on the list, to replace ageing USmade CH47 Chinooks, for which maintenance and obtaining spare parts has become difficult and expensive.

Three more USmade UH60M Black Hawk helicopters will also be bought at a cost of Bt2 billion.

The Royal Thai Air Force will get another six Swedishmade Gripen jet fighters, worth Bt16 billion, in the next two years. The first six, which cost Thailand Bt19 billion, arrived in February.

A number of rescue helicopters are also being sought by the RTAF, as those currently in use have proved less than fully capable of helping in disasters.

Support and radar systems currently being used with USmade F16 fighter jets will be integrated into new systems coming with the Gripen fighters, to make the different aircraft work together, the RTAF said in its purchase request. It has not yet said when the integration will take place or how much it will cost.

The weapons shopping lists of both the Army and the Air Force are being considered by the Defence Council, which is expected to approve them before submitting the combined bottom line to the Cabinet for approval. This is expected to happen by next month, so approval can be given before the coming House dissolution, to be announced by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Navy is also pushing for Cabinet endorsement of projects that require funding of more than Bt16 billion, to buy six used submarines and to upgrade two of its frigates, the Taksin and the Naresuan, at a cost of Bt7.5 billion.

Plans involve equipping the ships with antisubmarine systems, aviationdefence units and additional weapons.

(Nation Multimedia)

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