THE NATION May 18, 2016 1:00 am
ARMY chief General Teerachai Nakwanich yesterday defended the decision to purchase main battle tanks from China, saying Chinese hardware is of high quality and performance.
“I have confidence in the performance [of the Chinese tanks] since I personally went to see them,” Teerachai told reporters.
The Army signed a contract with China’s defence corporation Norinco for the MBT 3000 main battle tanks, also known as VT4. The tanks are expected to be delivered to Thailand at the beginning of 2017.
Asked if the Chinese tanks would be a substitute for the Ukrainian Oplot which were not delivered on time, Teerachai said the Army has a committee to consider procurement of equipment in accordance with plans and budget.
In 2011, the Army ordered 49 BM Oplot main battle tanks from Ukraine to replace 200 outdated M41 Walker Bulldog tanks. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan admitted recently that Ukraine had managed to deliver only a couple of batches of tanks and his government was looking for other alternatives. It was reported earlier that the Army was interested in the Russian T-90.
“We have not changed the plan to buy the Oplot. But [Ukraine] might have some delivery problems and we have to give them some more time. I insist that the deal was made in accordance with the signed contracts,” he said. The Army has enough tanks but there is demand for aircraft notably transportation helicopters.
Teerachai said he had made a request to the government to buy MI-17V5 from Russia to replace the old CH-47 Chinook. The Army needed some dual-purpose helicopters for troop transportation and disaster relief, he said.
“This is a minimum requirement we have made to the government. Indeed, it would not be enough for combat readiness,” he said, and noted that combat readiness required 80 per cent full equipment, but the Army had requested only 50 per cent of what it was supposed to have.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is now visiting Russia, said earlier that his government was interested in buying some helicopters from Russia.