26 Maret 2011
KMDB Oplot main battle tank, the tank has 48 ton weight (photo : Manaxob)
New Ukraine tanks leave soldiers riled
The army's decision to buy a new batch of about 200 main battle tanks from Ukraine has upset soldiers who prefer South Korean vehicles.
"The troops who will have to operate the vehicles do not want the Ukraine-made tanks because they are equipped with an auto-loader that requires the tanks to stop moving when ammunition has been used up and new loading is necessary," said an army source.
"This feature could become a problem when fighting in a war. That's why operators prefer tanks with a manual ammunition-loading system."
An auto-loader is a mechanical aid that removes the need for personnel to load ammunition into weapons.
The army has resolved to replace its old US-made M41A3 tanks with about 200 new ones. Among the top choices were the K1 tank from South Korea and the T92 Oplot tank from Ukraine.
The procurement of 200 Ukraine-made tanks will cost about 7 billion baht, said the source.
The US tanks have been in commission in four cavalry battalions since 1962, just prior to international involvement in the Vietnam War, said the source.
The new tanks will be stationed at the 4th Cavalry Battalion (Royal Guard) in Bangkok, 8th Cavalry Battalion in Nakhon Ratchasima, 9th Cavalry Battalion in Phitsanulok and 16th Cavalry Battalion in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
It is believed the army's procurement committee of high-ranking military officers chose the Ukrainian supplier over the South Korean one because of its connections with the supplier, said the source.
The supplier is the same one that supplied the controversial 96 Ukrainian-made BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carriers to the Royal Thai Armed Forces at a cost of almost 4 billion baht, the source said.
The tank procurement is part of the 10-year package of weapons purchases the government recently approved for the army.
The other choices proposed for consideration by the procurement committee included the Russian-made T-90 tank and the German-made Leopard 2 A4 tank. But the German tank was too expensive, said the source.