Enhancing the Royal Thai Army

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Ukrainian BTR-3E1M in desert camouflage.
Ukrainian BTR-3E1M in desert camouflage.

In recent years the Ukraine is becoming a dominant player in the Thai defense market, particularly in all matters related to land combat. Since 2008 Ukrspetsexport, Ukraine’s state-run export agency has sealed major deals with the Royal Thai Army (RTA). The first deal was the sale of a family of armored vehicles including 96 BTR-3E1 8×8 armored vehicles configured into armored personnel carriers (APC), command vehicles, 81mm and 120 mortar carriers, AT missile carrier (employing the ‘Barrier’ missile system), recovery and ambulance variants.

Five years later Ukrspetsexport followed up with a further 21 vehicles requested by Thailand in August 2013.
The Thai government proceeded to order 49 T-84 Oplot Main Battle Tanks (MBT) from Ukraine in 2011. These Oplot tanks will replace the obsolete M41 ‘Walker Bulldog’ tanks in service with the RTA. The first Oplot, featuring 125mm main gun and explosive reactive armor (ERA) suite was presented to Thai officials in Ukraine last June. The first deliveries of the tank to Thailand are expected in December 2013.

In April 2013 the Ukrainian truck manufacturer KrAZ has won a sizeable contract supplying 6×6 trucks for the RTA, the first deliveries are also expected in 2013.

The first shipment of Oplot M main battle tank from the Ukraine will soon be delivered to Thailand.
The first shipment of Oplot M main battle tank from the Ukraine will soon be delivered to Thailand.

China is a regular provider of military equipment to Thailand; the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) is providing technologies and collaborating with the Defense Technology Institute (DTi), for the development of multiple-launch rocket (MRL) systems. The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding on March 7, 2013 for the MRL launcher platform (DTi-l) and the guided rockets (DTi-lG), based on the Chinese WS-1 302 mm rocket system.

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A local producer of armored vehicles, Chaiseri Metal Rubber Company is the builder of the ‘First Win’ – a 4×4 armored vehicle that weighs 10,800 kg and carries eleven personnel. The vehicle entered service in July 2012, with its principal function being to operate in the country’s insurgency-plagued southern provinces. The RTA has already ordered 21 vehicles and the Ministry of Justice 18. Over the years, Chaiseri has expanded from overhauling military trucks to attaining the ability to manufacture complete armored vehicles. Chaiseri is marketing the vehicle to customers in the Middle East and Africa, an offer that could gain traction, with the collaboration with DRB-Hicom in Malaysia, as the two companies are offering First Win to the Malaysian Army, as a future replacement of the current Condor APC. Should it meet with success, Thailand would produce the initial batch of vehicles before Malaysia takes over licensed production.

This article, first published by Gordon Arthur in Asian Defense & Diplomacy special edition for Defense & Security 2013 is part of a three-part series reviewing recent acquisition programs in Thailand:

 

Chaiseri Metal Rubber Company is the builder of the ‘First Win’ - a 4x4 armored vehicle that weighs 10,800 kg and carries eleven personnel.
Chaiseri Metal Rubber Company is the builder of the ‘First Win’ – a 4×4 armored vehicle that weighs 10,800 kg and carries eleven personnel.