18 April 2006
MH-60S Knight Hawk of the Royal Thailand Navy (photo : Flickr-Ian Fuller)
Thailand plans to place an order for two Sikorsky MH-60S helicopters by mid-year, partially meeting a requirement for six maritime utility aircraft.
Industry sources say Bangkok has set aside funds in its budget for the fiscal year ending 31 September to acquire two MH-60Ss and is expected to sign a letter of agreement for the aircraft in May.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency says that the proposed six-aircraft deal is worth up to $246 million, including 14 General Electric T700 engines.
However, sources say that Thailand only has enough funds to initially acquire two aircraft for delivery in 2008 and that it could be several years before all six aircraft are fully funded.
Political uncertainty following the resignation last month of Thailand’s prime minister is expected to delay several acquisition programmes, but the navy is confident that its initial MH-60S purchase will go forward because the aircraft will help resolve some of the country’s disaster relief deficiencies, which were highlighted following the December 2004 Asian tsunami.
Thailand also has requirements for air force combat search and rescue helicopters and Lockheed Martin C-130 transports, and in addition Bangkok requires more army UH-60 Black Hawk utility and Boeing CH-47 transport helicopters.
None of these programmes are currently funded, however, and the forthcoming change of government will probably prevent any of them from even being reviewed until at least next year.