Airbus talks up choppers for rescues
MANCHING, Germany: A major helicopter manufacturer says the Thai armed forces are buying helicopters as much for search and rescue operations as they are for military activities.
Andreas Wiers, a senior manager of the H145M programme at Airbus Helicopters, a subsidiary of Airbus, said the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has bought five H145M helicopters since September 2016, adding Thailand was among the first countries to receive the modern, multipurpose light military helicopter.
Mr Wiers told the Bangkok Post during a recent Airbus media trade briefing 2019 trip attended by 30 international journalists that the RTN has bought them for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, as well as military operations, because they are ideal for delivering aid to cut off areas.
Shortly after being put in service, two of the helicopters took part in relief operations by carrying medical and food supplies to help flood victims in Nakhon Si Thammarat in 2017, according to the RTN.
The army also bought six UH-72A Lakota helicopters from Airbus Helicopters in late 2013.
The UH-72A Lakota is a non-arms-bearing helicopter used in medical and casualty evacuations, disaster relief work, homeland defence and counter-narcotics operations.
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bought eight H225M multi-role utility helicopters from Airbus Helicopters, and has already placed an order for four more.
This follow-on order will bring the RTAF's H225M fleet to 12 units by 2021, as part of the RTAF's fleet strengthening programme.
Air force chief ACM Maanat Wongwat said the RTAF will not become only the purchaser, but soon will also take part in designing the aircraft and helicopters to suit its own requirements, which the air force is keen to do as part of its hardware purchases.
"The RTAF must be allowed to put the spirit of the RTAF into the making of the aircraft," ACM Maanat said, adding that the tag TH (Thailand) must be allowed to be added to the model of the aircraft.
For example, the RTAF worked with Elbit Systems, an Israel-based international defence electronics company, to upgrade the RTAF's F-5 E/F fighters which have been in use for 40 years into F-5 TH Super Tigris, ACM Maanat said.
Over the next two years, the RTAF will focus on striking agreements that allow it to provide design input, he said, adding that a committee has been formed to study the matter.
"We will stick to the principle of purchase and development. We will not just buy, we will take part in the manufacturing process to develop the RTAF. Otherwise, we will never improve ourselves. The RTAF has a lot of competent personnel and we want them to show their abilities,'' he said.