In February the Government of Thailand released its ten-year ‘Modernisation Plan: Vision 2026’ built around the need to upgrade Thailand’s armed forces, enhance their effectiveness with better capabilities and modernise the military’s structure.
The local defence industry is tied into supporting the Thai military, although it is limited in terms of the level of sophistication of its technology, the cost of development and production against buying on the international market, and the need to rationalise its acquisition policy to allow greater cohesion within, and between, the different services.
It is likely that under the present government, the defence budget will be protected and will grow annually in order to fund the modernisation of its forces. Recent modernisation decisions include an upgrade to the Thai Air Force fleet of Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters, and the possibility of further purchases of Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 Golden Eages as well as new attack helicopters.
The Royal Thai Army has been re-equipping with modern VT-4 main battle tanks (MBTs) and VH-1 armoured personnel carriers from China. The Royal Thai Navy too has looked to China as a supplier of a small fleet of Yuan Class S26T submarines.
Internal security issues, border protection and the prevention of illegal trafficking in goods and people are set to remain high on the strategic threat list in the short to medium term.