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Army Equipment - Introduction


Thailand has pursued a program to mechanize its ground forces. By 1987 China has gained a higher profile in the Southeast Asian weapons market with the announcement of two pending arms deals with Thailand. A deal for at least 100 Chinese T-69 tanks was disclosed. Some presa cccounts peak of an acqusition of 100 Chinese "T-58" tanks, but there does not appear to be a tank of this designation. From 1979-1981 Thailand received 55 Second-hand M-48A5 Patton tanks. About the same time that the Chinese deal was disclosed, the Pentagon announced plans to sell the Thais 40 M-48 tanks, a vintage model modified for export. The American tank is heavier and has greater firepower, but because of its weight might not be as maneuverable in the often boggy rice lands that cover much of Thailand. From 1987-1988 Thailand received 40 second-hand M-48A5 Patton tanks.

In 1987 Thailand purchased from the US a total of 106 Stingray light tanks, with delivery in 1988-1990 in a deal worth $150 million. The Royal Thai Army's fleet of Stingray light tanks was repaired and modified by manufacturer Cadillac Gage Textron following the discovery of cracks in the hulls.

In 1991 Thailand received 75 Second-hand M-48A5 Patton tanks. Also in 1991 Thailand received 53 Second-hand M-60A1 Patton-2 tanks. In 1995 Thailand requested 125 Second-hand M-60A1 Patton-2 tanks, which were 1996-1997 in a deal worth $127 million. By late 1998, deliveries of these MBTs were reported to have been completed. All M60A1 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) would be upgraded to A3 standard.

Also, 101 each additional M60A3 MBTs were approved for purchase from the US. Funding for the program was to be spread over four years, beginning with the FY95-96 budget. In June 1997 the Government of Thailand requested the purchase of 107 excess M60A3 tanks with 105mm guns and Tank Thermal Sight (TTS) capability, overhaul and upgrade of the excess M60A3 tanks with TTS in the Continental United States, 107 .50 caliber and 7.62mm machine guns, engines with containers, radios, support equipment, publications, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government Quality Assurance Teams, spare and repair parts and other related program elements to ensure long-term weapon system supportability.

This sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in Southeast Asia. In addition to the 253 tanks previously procured from the US Government (125 M60A3, 53 M60A1, and 75 M48A5), these M60A3 tanks, which would come from the US Army excess inventory, would enhance Thailand's force modernization efforts and substantially improve the capability of its ground forces. Thailand would have no difficulty absorbing these tanks into its armed forces.

The estimated cost was $100 million. This sale does not appear to have been consumated, as no such transaction is reported in the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database.

In July 2015 Defence Blog posted some unusual pictures of an up-armoring scheme by the Thailand Army on their M60A3. This consisted of a metal framework along the side of the vehicle filled with logs. It looks strange, and a bit silly, but probably would mitigate the RPG threat to the tank's tracks.

Thai land forces have a budget of 9 billion baht (more than $ 250 million), which is going to be spent on the purchase of new tanks in the next three years. They need to replace the five dozen US M41 Walker Bulldog that served in the Royal Army after the US war against Vietnam.

In 2011, Thailand issued an order worth $240 million for the purchase of 49 T-84 Oplot tanks of Ukrainian origin along with auxiliary military equipment to the Ukrainian company 'Ukrspetsexport'. Defense Minister Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat and his advisers to Ukraine in October 9-15, 2012, which included a factory tour of the T-84 OPLOT tanks. The Abhisit administration had approved the procurement of 54 tanks worth 7bn Baht ($228m) in order to strengthen the armed forces. The tanks were expected to be delivered in 2013.

Ukraine delivered the first five main battle tanks to Thailand of a 2011 order worth over $200 million, a state-run arms exporter said 05 February 2014. The shipment was part of an order of 54 Oplot-M tanks to be put in service with the Royal Thai Armed Forces in the near future. The Oplot is armed with a 125-mm smoothbore gun, a 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun and a 12.7-mm anti-aircraft machine gun. The main gun can fire a laser-guided missile against battle tanks, armored vehicles and hovering helicopters within a range of five kilometers (3.1 miles). The tanks protection system integrates both passive armor and explosive reactive armor.

By January 2016, delays in the delivery of Ukrainian-made Oplot tanks had Thailand look to Russia and China for alternatives to Ukrainian military equipment. By the end of 2015, only ten tanks had been delivered to the Royal Thai Army. Such delays have caused concern among senior officials, the publication The Diplomat wrote. Further execution of the contract "suspended due to political events" in this country by some reports.

Although the representatives of Ukrspetsexport say that another five tanks would be delivered in the beginning of 2016, sources of publications reported that Bangkok can refuse the deal because initially it was assumed that in 2015, 20 tanks from Ukraine will be delivered.

"One indication for doing so is the creation of a new special Thai committee to evaluate alternatives to the T-84 MBT. Based on local media reports, the committee narrowed it down to two models the Russian-made T-90 (or T-90MS) or the Chinese-made VT-4/MBT-3,000. Both Russian and Chinese models are based on the Soviet-era T-72 tank design and armed with a 125-mm smoothbore gun as their main weapon system. The T-84 Oplot is a derivative of the Soviet T-80 and also sports a 125-mm smoothbore cannon," The Diplomat wrote.

By February 2016 the armed forces of Thailand created a special commission to examine the existing proposals on the arms market. This was announced by press secretary of the chief of staff of the country's land forces Vinthay Suvari. "The decision will be adopted by the Commission taking into account the specific benefits of possible options," said Colonel Suvari, without specifying which countries producers Thailand was considering as a potential supplier. In addition to the Russian T-90, fighting machines of China and Korea were under consideration. It is reported that Thailand plans to purchase around 200 new MBTs.

Delays in the delivery of Ukrainian-made Oplot tanks made the Thai military look for a replacement. In April 2016 the Royal Thai Army signed a contract for an initial 28 units with a contract value about USD150 million. The aim is to field a battalion of VT-4. If RTA satisfied with the Chinese tank, they will order for to meet all unfilled requirement of 150 tanks. The VT-4 will be manufacture in China but the contract required technology transfer to Thailand. Defense Technology Institute will be one of the technology receivers. Delivery was expected in 2 years.

The VT-4 main battle tank, also known as the MBT3000, is a Chinese third generation main battle tank built by Norinco for overseas export. It is an upgraded variant of the MBT2000 (VT-1) and the latest tank model of the Type 90-II tank family, based on the Soviet-era T-72 tank.

In the five years since the tank deal was signed, Malyshev Factory had only provided Bangkok with about 20 T-84s, as of the end of 2016, despite the fact that the deadline was originally set for 2014. Malyshev Factory faced several serious problems, among them the lack of qualified personnel. In 2015, the plant did not produce a single T-84. At that time, Kiev asked the Thai side to postpone the delivery until October 2017. But in January 2017 Thailand's Ministry of Defense decided to terminate its contract with Ukraine for the purchase of several dozen T-84 Oplot main battle tanks, citing Kiev's inability to deliver them on time. Bangkok had already signed a contract with China on the delivery of 28 VT-4s, with room in the contract for further deliveries in the future.

The decision to go with China instead of the US and other Western weapons makers was made out of budgetary considerations, with Chinese equipment thought to have a superior price-quality ratio. Furthermore, Washington has had restrictions in place preventing the delivery of weapons to Bangkok since the 2014 Thai coup.

On 26 March 2018 UkrOboronProm reported that the contract for supplying the main battle tanks "Oplot-T" to the Kingdom of Thailand is successfully fulfilled. The batch of combat vehicles successfully passed the test in the presence of customers and will soon be sent to the Kingdom of Thailand. This was announced by the Director General of the SC "UkrOboronProm" Pavlo Bukin after the tests.

"The contract was fulfilled despite Russias unfair competition and military aggression. We are grateful to our strategic partners from Thailand for a wise understanding of the problems, faced by Ukraine and for their confidence that Ukraine is capable of overcoming the artificial obstacles, raised in our relationship," said Pavlo Bukin. According to him, "Thai contract" implementation allowed Ukraine to receive currency revenues to the budget and load the production capacities of UKROBORONPROM (UOP) enterprises.

Armored personnel carriers

In July 1997, the Royal Thai Army started receiving 82 newly built M113A3 derivative tracked vehicles. The vehicles are being made at the United Defense LP factory in San Jose, California. The order included a recently exercised option for 12 additional systems. Final deliveries are expected by the end of next year. Six vehicle configurations are being built, including M113A3 ambulance vehicles, M577A3 command posts and M113A3 versions of a maintenance recovery vehicle. All are equipped with the 275 bhp 6V53T engine package. FMC and associated contractors completed the refurbishment of 100 M113A1 armored personnel carriers to M113A2 standard.

Artillery Enhancement

The Royal Thai Army received the last of 24 LG1 Mk II 105 mm light guns ordered from Giat Industries of France in July 1997. It has been reported that Giat supplied Thailand with kits to enable 285 old US-supplied 105 mm M101 towed howitzers to be upgraded with the complete barrel of the LG1. The upgrade work was reportedly carried out in RTA facilities and enables the M101 to fire Giat's new High Explosive Base Bleed (HE BB) projectile. The LG1 Mk II, in addition to firing the standard HE M1 projectile to a maximum range of 11.5 km, will also fire a Giat 105 mm HE BB projectile to a maximum range of 17.5 km. The RTA took delivery of 10,000 105 mm HE BB rounds. The second order was for 25,000 rounds, which were manufactured in Thailand, with some parts supplied from France. A further 35,000 rounds were since ordered. Furthermore, the RTA purchased 54 surplus M198 155mm towed howitzers from the US Army in 2012 to replace M114A1s.

An order for a second batch of 18 155 mm GH N-45 howitzers from the NORICUM Division of T & T Technology Trading enhanced the RTA's artillery capability. The NORICUM 155 mm GH N-45 howitzer, firing an Extended Range Full-Bore - Base Bleed (ERFB-BB) projectile, has a maximum range of 39.6 km, making it the longest range artillery system in RTA service. The self-propelled artillery systems in-service with the RTA are 20 of the 155 mm M109A5s manufactured by the United States' United Defense LP, which are supported by 20 M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles.

Thailand was Asia's first customer for Nexter's CAESAR 155mm truck-based howitzer after it ordered six examples in 2006. However, the CASEAR's electronic systems proved problematic in Thailand's tropical climate, so the Royal Thai Amiy (RTA) also pursued cheaper and hopefully more robust alternatives. The Royal Thai Army ordered 18 ATMOS-2000 (Autonomous Truck Mounted howitzer System) systesm, a 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled (SP) artillery system manufactured by Soltam Systems [now part of Elbit Systems]. The ATMOS is fitted with a 155 mm/52 caliber ordnance which conforms to NATO Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU), and is mounted on a 66 cross-country truck chassis.

Colonel Teera Nakmalee of the Weapon Production Centre (WPC) spoke to Defence Review Asia at the Defense & Security show in Bangkok in November 2013. As a cheaper alternative to CAESAR, the WPC developed a 155mm SPH based on a Volvo 6x6 chassis. Six vehicles were ordered, and Autonomous Truck-Mounted System (ATMOS) technology from Elbit Systems would automate the guns. Elbit will supply the ATMOS autonomous artillery system for $30 million over three years, with the first completed vehicle arriving in 2014.

Weapon Production Centre (WPC) had a second artillery project, under which the WPC integrated nine 105mm M101 howitzers onto Kia 5-ton trucks as part of an 18-unit RTA requirement. This is essentiallly the Samsung Techwin EVO-105 105mm self-propelled truck howitzer.


The fleet of Royal Thai Army helicopter are consists of TH-300, Bell 206, UH-1H, Bell 212, Bell 412, CH-47D, and UH-60L. There once was a plan to replace UH-1H "Huey" by 33 Black Hawk, but the budget crisis from 1997 Asian Financial Crisis forced RTA to cut the number into only 7. Based on the original requirement in 2006, there was a requirment for 9 utility helicopter, with the helicopter required the same standard with Black Hawk.

On 18 March 2003, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Thailand of UH-60L BLACKHAWK helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $35 million. The Government of Thailand has requested a possible sale of two UH-60L BLACKHAWK helicopters with T- 700 engines, two spare T-700 engines, M130 chaff dispenser, receivers, spare and repair parts, gun pods, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government Quality Assurance Team (QAT), contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistics support.

On 21 July 2005, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Thailand of two UH-60L BLACK HAWK helicopters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $46 million.

On Aug. 6, 2009 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Thailand of three Black Hawk helicopters and associated equipment and logistic support for an estimated cost of $150 million. The Government of Thailand requested a possible sale of three UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters with six T-700-GE-701D engines with C controls, AN/APX 100 (V) Identification Friend or Foe Mark XII Transponder Set or suitable substitute / commercial equivalent, warranty, internal hoist kits, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistic support.

This proposed sale would contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally. Thailand needs these helicopters to fulfill its strategic commitments for search and rescue and self-defense within the region without being dependent upon assistance from other countries. This proposed sale will upgrade its air mobility capability and provide for the defense of vital installations and close air support for ground forces. Thailand, which already had UH-60s in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.

On July 13, 2011 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Thailand for three UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $235 million.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces plan to replace outdated Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters produced in the United States with Russia's Mi-17V5 helicopters, Thai Army's Commander-in-Chief Teerachai Nakwanich said 18 May 2016. Earlier in May, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said that Bangkok could purchase Russia's helicopters for its needs. "We need helicopters to replace outdated US CH-47 Chinook that are used as main military transport helicopters. We do not have money to buy new Chinooks, our budget is very limited and Russia's helicopters meet our requirements both in their characteristics and prices," Nakwanich said in an interview with Fifth National TV channel of Thailand, commenting on the recent statements of the prime minister.

A military source said that the army proposed buying a total of 12 Mi-17V5 helicopters and is awaiting approval from the cabinet, which will assess the size of the budget to be allocated for this purpose. The army chief did not disclose the price of the Russian helicopters but some international media outlets reported last year that India planned to buy the same carrier for about US$23 million (about 800 million baht) each.

Time needed to pay for UAVs

The RTA was reported to have negotiated an extended payment plan with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) over its purchase of Searcher long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The contract, worth about US$12 million, covers one ground-control station and four platforms, although the version obtained is not known. Deliveries began in late 1998. The acquisition fulfils a long-standing requirement to replace a UAV capability lost through attrition. Finalization of the deal was delayed for several years due to political and budgetary constraints combined with a fierce competition between IAI's Malat UAV Division and a US supplier. An IAI team visited Bangkok in mid-1998 to help resolve RTA problems in funding the Searcher purchase. It was reported that the company offered an extension of the payment period.

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