Friday, October 18, 2019

Helicopters cost ‘only’ Bt4.2 bn, says Army, not Bt12 bn

Sep 26. 2019
File Photo: Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree
File Photo: Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree
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By The Nation

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The Royal Thai Army says it paid Bt4.2 billion for eight AH-6i light attack reconnaissance helicopters and associated weapons and equipment from the US, not Bt12 billion as cited in a press release on Tuesday (September 24).

Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree on Thursday clarified that the $400 million figure cited by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) referred to a “weapons procurement framework” the US approved for Thailand. The Army instead purchased only essential items, he said, spending Bt4.226 billion.

The eight helicopters purchased for the Aviation Regiment Aviation Centre will come along with 50 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 200 Advance Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rockets, 500 Hydra 70mm rockets, 10 M134 7.62mm Mini-Guns, four GAU-19/B 12.7mm Gatling guns and other items, Winthai said.

The Army proposed buying 31 patrol-ready helicopters in 2011 but at the time was given permission to buy eight initially. The eight announced this week represented the second such purchase, Winthai said, and they along with other gear, a two-year supply of parts, the construction of hangars and training programs include a flight simulator all came within the approved Bt4.2-billion budget.

Winthai concurred with DSCA statements that Thailand is a strategic partner of the US committed to regional security, and that the helicopter procurement would strengthen national defence and deter regional threats.

The helicopter purchase was announced after the Army on September 12 received the first US-made Stryker M1126 infantry carriers for use mainly by the 11th Infantry Division based in Chachoengsao.

It paid Bt2.96 billion for the 37 infantry carriers and the US Army is to provide 23 more at no extra charge.

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