KUALA LUMPUR: Its looking obvious that although Malaysian big arms purchases have grind to a halt, our neighbours seemed to continue with their buying spree. The latest is the Royal Thai Army contract with Aria International Inc of the US to provide in-country surveillance and communications solutions and services, for an aggregate purchase price of $9.7 million.
The RTA surveillance system consists of a manned airship with military-grade imaging and communications systems, a state-of-the-art Mobile Command and Control Vehicle, and upgrades to existing communications and facilities to receive real-time surveillance data.
Major General Chawalit Srisilpanandana, Director General-Directorate of the Royal Thai Army’s Logistics Department, says that:
“The deployment of these new systems and services by Aria International Incorporated will make a significant impact on the capabilities of our deployed forces in the South of Thailand.”
Under this contract, Aria is responsible for integrating all system components and delivering a complete turn-key solution, conducting initial operations and continuing maintenance tasks as well as providing the training to the RTA personnel on the equipment. A condition of the contract requires the Company to configure equipment in the U.S. and integrate and deliver the hardware in Thailand within 120-days of contract award.
Aria will also provide the RTA with certain ancillary services including installation, training and the construction of an airship hangar.
It appears with the surveillance system, the Thais will be able to see whats going on our side of the border although Malaysian Defence could not determined the range of the system. Its highly probable that if the airship is based near Narathiwat, the system coverage may well even be able to monitor the Gong Kedak Air Base where our Sukhois are based.
This development does not augur well for us as we lacked “looking over the hill” capabilities which are now both owned by the Singaporeans with their G550 AEW aircraft (range of more than 370km) and the Thais. Next year, the Thai air force will take delivery of a Saab 340 AEW aircraft as part of their purchase of six Gripens and another 340 which was signed in 2007.
RSAF G550 AEW
Malaysian Defence is not suggesting that we rushed out and buy our own AEW aircraft to counter the threat ( I still believe its still cheaper to buy S400 SAM system than maintaining a fleet of aircraft) but just pointing out the scenario which is happening today.
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