Apirat says B12bn of US arms 'transparent'
Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong on Wednesday defended a plan to procure eight helicopters and related equipment worth about 12 billion baht from the US, insisting the proposed purchase was above board.
He was responding to media reports that the US government had approved a possible sale to Thailand of eight AH-6i light attack reconnaissance helicopters and related equipment.
Gen Apirat said the procurement is transparent while the choppers will strengthen the country's defence capabilities.
The procurement plan came under scrutiny after the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), announcing the State Department's approval of the possible sale, said the estimated cost would be about 12 billion baht.
The Thai government, it said, made a request to buy eight AH-6i helicopters, 50 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles; and 200 Advance Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rockets.
Also included in the proposed sale were guns, other rockets, night-vision goggles, cameras, integrated product support and technical assistance.
According to the DSCA, the proposed sale would support US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping improve the security of a major Non-Nato ally.
The agency said Thailand is a strategic partner committed to contributing to regional security.
The AH-6i helicopter would improve the army's light attack capability, strengthen national defence and deter regional threats, according to the DSCA.
The choppers would provide reconnaissance or close air support to special forces units, Stryker infantry soldiers and border guard units.
On Sept 12, the army received its first batch of US-made Stryker armoured infantry carriers to be assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment.
The army struck a deal to buy 37 "refurbished" US-made Strykers for US$80 million (2.4 billion baht), but under the contract, the US Army would give 23 more Strykers to the Thai army for free, bringing the number to 60 in total.