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BANGKOK — South Korea is looking to sell more weapons systems, including warships and aircraft, to Thailand, which is pushing to modernize its armed forces to meet security challenges.
Following a contract with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) for a 3,700-ton frigate, the Royal Thai Navy plans to procure one more frigate built by the South Korean shipyard, according to officials. The contract for the first frigate was signed in August. The deal was valued around $470 million, the highest weapons import for a single item in Thailand.
“The delivery of the first frigate, DW 3000F, will take place in 2017, and we expect a following order for the second ship in the coming years,” said Kim Deog-soo, director of the naval & special ship marketing team at DSME. DSME was one of the South Korean defense contractors that participated in the Defense & Security 2013 from Monday through Thursday at the IMPACT Exhibition Center here.
The frigate for the Thai Navy is based on the design of the Korean Navy’s 4,000-ton KDX-1. The ship is equipped with up-to-date weapons systems from major defense contractors worldwide.
Among the key armament are Swedish Saab’s 9LV Mk4 combat management system; the Mk 41 vertical launch system from US Lockheed Martin; evolved Sea Sparrow missiles of Raytheon; the Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon missiles; Turkish Oto Melera 76mm super rapid gun; and two UK MSI-Defence Seahawk 30mm cannons.
The Thai Navy also is considering buying a submarine, in an apparent move to respond to the rapid naval modernization of its neighbors, including Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which bought South Korean submarines and training ships, respectively.
“The latest contract with DSME is a big step forward toward upgrading the Thai Navy,” a high-ranking officer of the Thai Navy’s procurement bureau said Monday during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Adm. Shin Jung-ho of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s ship project bureau. “We have yet to lay out a submarine project in detail due to budget issues, but the thing is that we need a submarine and the government will make a decision on that in the near future.”
“South Korea sells not just a ship, but a package of logistics support and training programs,” Shin replied. “The South Korean Navy will make utmost efforts to help the Thai Navy deploy its frigate successfully.”
South Korea’s representative at the Thai defense fair stressed the arms exports to Thailand will further boost the country’s weapons sales in the Southeast Asian region.
“On the basis of improved relations between the two governments, the Thai military is expected to acquire more weapons built by our nation,” said Lee Yong-dae, director of the South Korean Defense Ministry’s procurement bureau. “In particular, our export strategy of selling a package of weapons and relevant technology meets the requirements of the Thai armed forces’ modernization schemes.
Lee revealed that the Royal Thai Air Force has shown interest in purchasing an attack variant of the T-50 supersonic trainer aircraft built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin.
“The Thai air force requested KAI for information about the T-50 jet,” said the retired two-star army general, adding Thailand is interested in buying 16 T-50 variants, including the TA-50 armed trainer and FA-50 light attacker.
The Royal Thai Army eyes a truck-mounted howitzer built by Samsung Techwin, according to Lee, in an effort to modernize its artillery force.
The vehicle, dubbed EVO-105, consists of a standard South Korean KM500 five-ton truck chassis with the rear cargo area modified to accept the upper part of the US 105MM M101 towed howitzer.
“The vehicle features the fire control system used in the K9 howitzer’s 155mm/52-caliber gun,” a Techwin spokesman said. “It’s cheaper and faster than the standard K9, which is attractive to Southeast Asian nations.”
About 800 EVO-105 vehicles are to be deployed with South Korea’s Army in 2017, he noted.