29 Maret 2010

Gen Anupong Scraps Airship Purchase Plan

29 Maret 2010
Thai's airship (photo : The Nation)

Army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to scrap the controversial 350-million-baht airship purchase project, an army source says.

Gen Anupong's decision came after Virginia-based Aria International, the airship supplier, repeatedly failed to fulfil its contract, and delayed delivery by six months, said the source.
The decision has yet to be officially announced.

In several tests, the airship proved unable to fly at 10,000 feet (3,048m) above the ground as stated in the contract. It went as high as only 3,150 feet (960m), a height considered unsafe for a surveillance operation in the deep south, the source said.

The committee set up to examine the airship and recommend to the army whether or not to acknowledge delivery had also refused to approve the delivery due to the aircraft's substandard specifications, the source said.

After being told about the committee's decision, Gen Anupong tried to convince Wut Wimuktalop, chief of the Department of Army Transportation, to sign to acknowledge delivery of the airship, according to the source.

However, Maj Gen Wut refused to do so, which forced the army chief to reconsider his position.

The Budget Bureau, which had inquired about the airship purchase budget, had also asked the army for an explanation of how the budget would be disbursed by the end of this month.

These factors had led to Gen Anupong's decision to scrap the airship project by refusing to accept delivery.

The army would also sue the US supplier for breaching the contract, and demand the company return the 70% purchase payment made by the army to the company, the source said.

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