Thailand Procures Sky Saker FX80 UAV From Norinco

Norinco Sky Saker FX80
The Sky Saker FX80 VTOL-capable from Norinco was on display at the Defense & Security 2023 exhibition. (Gordon Arthur)

Norinco of China has been awarded a contract from the Royal Thai Army (RTA) for its Sky Saker FX80 UAV. Unsurprisingly, Norinco had an example of this vertical take-off and landing UAV on display at Defense & Security 2023 in Bangkok.

A procurement contract was recently signed after the Thai Ministry of Finance announced on 11 September that Norinco had been declared the winner of a competitive tender.

This deal covers one system containing four separate UAVs, plus an associated ground control station. Deliveries of all equipment should occur next year. Thailand is believed to be the FX80 type’s first export customer.

Field artillery target acquisition batteries of the RTA will use the unmanned aircraft for long-range target detection and bomb damage assessment by artillery units. Its sensor suite includes a laser designator.

A budget of ($5.28 million (THB188.7 million) was allocated for this procurement project. The FX80 will replace the incumbent IAI Searcher Mk II tactical UAV, of which the RTA purchased four examples in 2000.

The FX80 is 2.9m long, has a 5.9m wingspan and it can achieve speeds of 110km/h. The operating radius of this UAV with a maximum take-off weight of 68kg is listed as 100km.

The Sky Saker FX80 is available in two configurations – an all-electric one with a three hour endurance, and a petrol-electric hybrid with an eight hour endurance. The configuration chosen by Thailand is unclear.

Other contenders for this RTA artillery requirement were the DP6 UAV from Thai company Aero Technology Industry Limited (ATIL), and the Pathum UAV based on the Orbiter 4 jointly proposed by Aeronautics of Israel and RV Connex of Thailand.

by Gordon Arthur