02 Februari 2016
Mil Mi-28 Havoc attack aircraft (photo : Jeroen)
There are rumors that the Royal Thai Army are interested in the attack helicopter Mil Mi-28 (NATO code Havoc) from Russia to replace AH-1F Cobra stationed in the Rotary-Wing fleet 3 Army Aviation Center which operate 7 units.
For the last several years, the Army main method of sourcing new aircraft has been to order a series of helicopters in small lots. As you can see from passed procurement : armed reconnaissance helicopter AS550 C3, helicopter transport for general purpose use UH-72A, UH-60M, AW139, H145 and Mi-17V5 all of which have not exceeded 10 units per model.
As the army most urgent need is to procure replacement helicopters for general purpose use which are nearing the end of their useful life cycle, such as UH-1H, Bell 206A and CH-47D that requires urgent consideration for replacement in the near future. As these general purpose helicopters are more necessary than attack helicopters.
Although the Army procured the first 4 AH-1F since 1991 and another lot of 4 AH-1F by EDA in 2012 which were used. Due to budgetary reasons the Army may still need to operate the AH-1F for some time to come. The new attack helicopters whether it is from the United States, Western Europe or Russia, would still need a large amount of budget.
Royal Thai Army AH-1F Cobra (photo : Mark Rourke)
Such as the AH-64A Apache attack helicopter the RTA pilots expressed their personal opinion that it is more expensive than the AH-1F, but there is not much difference in it’s combat capability. Or in the case of the AH-64E Block III Apache Guardian’s latest advanced systems such as cameras that show color images at night is very expensive. The army is unlikely to have enough funding to procure it.
As can be seen by many weapons procurement projects which has been suspended or delayed due to lack of budget. Such as the guided anti-tank missile launcher project to procure the Spike MR to replace the M47 Dragon.
But that does not mean that the Russian Mi-28 attack helicopters would be a better choice even if the price is right compared to quality and capability as the army has experienced with the Mi-17V5 of which 5 units is in operation with the General Support Aviation Division Army Aviation Center.
We must take into account that the aircraft used within the armed forces past and present such as UH-1H Huey Gunship, AH-1F Cobra and AS550 C3 use similar basic weapons system which can be shared and is NATO compatible.
This is the view that Thailand's army is not suited for combat aircraft with totally different weapons systems, this will be two camps into the army. Because of affect for overall combat readiness, as seen in many neighboring countries, ASEAN.