03 November 2009

Thai Army: Airship "Next to Useless" without Cameras

3 November 2009

Use of the airship (photo : trensupdates)

Surveillance Plan Grounded

Equipping the airship bought in the US for patrol and surveillance work in the lower South with a pair of state-of-the-art spy cameras will face further delays, the army says.

Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd yesterday said deployment had been complicated by the US reluctance to supply the two high-resolution surveillance cameras for the plane-shaped balloon.

"High-definition security cameras are considered to be warfare equipment and can't be acquired without going through strict procedures," Col Sansern said.

"The US first needs to be confident that the cameras will not be misused or fall into the wrong hands when they arrive.

"Internal coordination between the manufacturer of the airship and the US administration is required before the endorsement for the export of the cameras.

"That should take some time. And I do not know how long it will take."

The army signed a contract for the purchase of the airship with Aria International Inc this year. The deal was announced on April 30.

RTA's airship (photo : Bangkok Post)

An army source yesterday said the army would consider terminating the purchase if the cameras could not be delivered.

The purchase contract requires the 350 million baht Aeros 40D airship to come equipped with a surveillance camera for use during the day and an infrared camera for night-time operations.

Col Sansern hoped the delivery of the cameras would not be blocked.
Army staff are being trained on how to control the airship.

The project, initiated by army chief Anupong Paojinda, was originally scheduled for launch last month.

The airship arrived in Thailand without the cameras three months ago.

"We can actually afford to wait because the construction of the airship hangar in Pattani has just started," Col Sansern said.

(Bangkok Post)

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