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Analysis: Thailand military acquisition program including armored vehicles and main battle tanks

On 18 January 2020, a military parade took place in Bangkok to celebrate the Royal Thailand Army Day. An opportunity for the Royal Thai armed forces to showcase the latest acquisition of military equipment including new armored vehicles and main battle tanks. 

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 1 Battlefield Defense
On January 18, 2020, Stryker APCs took part in the Royal Thai Army Day for the first time (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)

In September 2019, it was announced the defense spending of Thai military and law enforcement agencies which primarily focuses on maintaining defense expenditures to sufficiently safeguard the nation and strengthen the armed forces to protect the country’s interests. Thailand purchases military equipment to modernize and upgrade military capability. Demand for military and defense equipment from allied countries, including the United States, will continue.

The nature of security threats in Thailand includes potential political unrest, occasional border disputes, domestic terrorist and separatist group activities in the troubled southern provinces, natural disasters, human smuggling, and illicit drug trafficking.

Since the economic crisis of the late 1990s, Thai defense budgets have continued to increase every year in an effort to maintain combat readiness, neutralize the regional arms race among Associations of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and modernize the country’s armed forces. The United States has been one of the largest sources of defense equipment to the country.

For 2019, the Thai government has allocated 1.29% of the country’s GDP to defense, which is approximately $7.3 billion. An estimated 49% of the defense budget is assigned to the Royal Thai Army, another 20.03% is allocated to the Royal Thai Navy, and 18.32% is for the Royal Thai Air Force. The remaining funds are distributed to the Office of the Permanent Secretary and Defence Technology Institute (DTI) for research and development.

For 2020 Thailand will spend $7.6 billion. The Thai Ministry of Defense introduced a military reform and restructuring plan for 2017 to 2026. The plan emphasizes research and development along with a focus on purchases of munitions, weapons, military vehicles, training aircraft, high technology electronic and communication devices.

To upgrade military capabilities, the Thai military will invest in additional purchases of helicopters, armored vehicles, and utility vehicles to counter a southern insurgency and strengthen its border security and current military units.

In addition, the Thai government plans to develop the domestic defense industry to reduce the country’s dependence on imports, promote technology transfer, and strengthen national security.

During the military parade on January 18, 2020, the Thai armed forces have showcased for the first time, the American-made Stryker ICV wheeled armored personnel carriers that were purchased under an intergovernmental agreement with the United States under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program from the U.S. Army. The other vehicles already took part to previous RTA Day parades. 

The Chinese-made VT4 is also a new main battle tank that is now in service with the Royal Thai armed forces. In 2016, Thailand has approved a contract to acquire from China, the first batch of twenty-eight VT4 MBTs, worth $150 million, was delivered to Thailand in October 2017 and destined for the 3rd Cavalry Division. Following the delivery, the RTA (Royal Thai Army) got a green light from the cabinet to procure a second batch of ten VT4s, for $58 million.

The third batch, intended for a full, 49 MBT-strong battalion, still awaits cabinet approval. NORINCO’s VT4 provides the RTA with the required capability at an attractive price tag. Offering excellent cost-effectiveness and acceptable quality, the Chinese VT4 will likely fulfill the equipping needs of several more RTA divisions in the quest to complete its modernization program.

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 11
King Vajiralongkorn opened the parade (Picture source: Thai TV)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 2 bis
Ukrainian-made Oplot MBTs (Picture source: Danbiev)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 3
The Strykers are followed by M41 Walker Bulldogs of the Vietnam War era (Picture source: Danbiev)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 4
Chinese-made VT-4 MBTs (Picture source: Danbiev)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 5
Nexter Caesar 155mm self-propelled howitzers (Picture source: Danbiev)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 6 Battlefield Defense
DTI-2 MLRS 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket System. (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 7 Battlefield Defense
Humvees with TOW antitank missile launcher (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 8 Battlefield Defense
LVTP-7 (AAV-7A1)s of the Royal Thai Marine Corps (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 9 Battlefield Defense
BTR-3 8x8 wheeled armored personnel carrier manufactured in Ukraine. (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)

Military parade for Royal Thailand Army Day 10 Battlefield Defense
The Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Army parading in a Volkswagen 181, a model built between 1968 and 1983 (Picture source: Battlefield Defense)


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