Thailand Cuts Defence Spending to Offset Costs of COVID-19

Stryker IFV
GDLS 8x8 Stryker infantry carrier vehicle.

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) will defer its planned $138 million (4.5 billion-baht) buy of a second batch of 50 General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) 8×8 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles to the next fiscal year, local media reported quoting RTA chief General Apirat Kongsompong.

Stryker vehicles

The army’s Ordnance Department had earlier proposed the acquisition, which includes armaments and associated technical support, as part of a broader US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package comprising a total of 130 refurbished ex-US Army Stryker vehicles of varying models. The remaining 80 vehicles would be supplied under US military funding assistance.

In May 2019 the RTA had agreed to acquire an initial batch of 60 M1126 Strykers and M2 .50 calibre heavy machine guns, with 37 of these funded by Thailand for $91 million (2.96 billion-baht) and the remainder provided under US funding. The first tranche of two Strykers were delivered in late August, according to the US government’s Joint US Military Advisory Group Thailand (JUSMAGTHAI).

Thai Defence budget cuts

Thailand has slashed its 2020 annual defence budget by $555 million (18 billion-baht), with the funds contributing to a national stimulus package aimed at easing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

RTA spokesperson Colonel Winthai Suvaree told the Thai News Agency on 22 April that the budget cut will also impact other ongoing or planned acquisition projects. The official did not go into details, but the army is believed to be seeking additional artillery and ground-based radar systems, as well as main battle tanks (MBTs).

VT4 Main Battle tanks

The service has taken delivery of up to 49 VT4 MBTs manufactured by state-owned Chinese firm Norinco.

Thailand is the first export customer for the VT4, which is also known as the MBT-3000, and was developed specifically for the export market. The RTA had also earlier indicated opportunities for additional batches to replace its large fleets of ageing US-made tanks, including M41, M48, and M60 platforms which were acquired several decades ago.

by Jr Ng