03 Februari 2011
M41 Walker Bulldog will be replaced by 40-56 tonnes MBT (photo : Roger JG)
The Army is preparing to request a Bt770-billion budget to purchase new weapons and repair existing hardware as part of a Defence Ministry policy to modernise the military at an estimated cost of Bt1 trillion.
Under the Army's "Modernisation Plan: Vision 2020", Bt497 billion is earmarked for the purchase of new armoured tanks to replace the 200 vintage American-made M-41 tanks unit-by-unit as well as 100 sniper rifles for special operations units, 13,300 bulletproof jackets and 23,000 jackets for units operating in the deep South.
The remaining Bt273 billion is for "low-priority" projects such as the repair of 100 British-made Scorpion light tanks out of the 153 in the fleet, the repair of helicopters of various models from a total of 264, and the repair of 63 aircraft. The repairs include spare parts.
FV-101 Scorpion will be upgraded for better performance (photo : urang)
The specifications for the replacement tank include a ready-for-combat weight ranging from 40-56 tonnes, an operational range of 500 kilometres and a minimum terrain speed of 55 kilometres per hour.
The minimum calibre of the main cannon is 120 millimetres, with a stabiliser and a computerised fire-control system. It must still be in production and used by the army of the country where it is manufactured, an Army source said.
Another "low-priority" project is the gradual replacement of bulletproof vests at the annual rate of 8,000 for a total of 40,000 in the entire Armed Forces inventory. The vests have an average service life of five years.
In the Army's written proposal, a reason cited for the request is "increasing tensions along the Thai and Cambodian border, coupled with the extensive acquisition of new main battle tanks by neighbouring countries, both to the east and the west".