Rough Road for Thailand’s BTR-3 APC Purchase
Thai Defence Minister Boonrawd Somthas recently suspended a controversial arms deal announced in mid-August 2007 between Thailand and Ukraine, bringing the purchase of 96 BTR-3E1 wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs) for Bt4 billion (about $117.6 million) to a halt. The BTR-3E1 amphibious armored personnel carriers had beaten APC contenders from China, Russia, and Canada to win the Thai order, and a recent request from Iraq would make 9 customer countries if the Thai order goes through. BTR-3s are built by an international consortium led by the United Arab Emirates’ ADCOM MANUFACTURING Company Ltd. WLL, in partnership with Ukrainian firms Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau, and the State Scientific Technical Centre of Artillery & Rifle Arms. Jane’s describes the BTR-3 as:
“a more recent design [than the BTR-80] with a raised roof for greater internal volume… powered by a locally developed UTD-20 diesel coupled to a manual transmission. Armament consists of the Shturm combat module armed with a locally produced 30mm ZTM-1 cannon, 40mm automatic grenade launcher, 7.62mm machine gun and twin launcher for Barrier ATGW with a maximum range of 5,500m. The vehicle is fully amphibious, being propelled in the water at a speed of 8-10km/h.”
The BTR-3E1 deal has caused a rift in the Defence Ministry, pitting the (now transferred to an inactive post) Admiral Banawit Kengrien against army chief (and now Deputy Prime Minister) Sonthi Boonyaratglin. Questions have also been raised about the Ukrainian firm’s inclusion in the competition, pointing out that they didn’t submit their bid by the deadline. The Office of the Auditor-General chimed in with its own report, questioning including whether the Ukrainian APC has a proper after-sale maintenance agreement, and whether it was in line with national procurement policy. The current army chief, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, has said the army would accept any decision made by Defence Minister Somtas. The ministry has set up a committee to re-examine the deal.
This could be good news for General Dynamics Canada, whose amphibious LAV-II and non-amphibious LAV-III/Stryker vehicles are often mentioned as the Thai competition’s “higher quality, higher price” alternative. ‘Military experts’ complaining that a BTR-3 won’t stop an RPG-7 rocket should be aware that the LAV-III/Stryker won’t do so, either, however, unless it’s protected by cage armor. Which could also be fitted to the BTRs, in order to give them similar odds. Action Ukraine Monitoring Service report | Thailand’s “The Nation” report.