Thailand moves ahead with indigenous AFV development

Panus-4x4

Locally built armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) look set to feature more prominently in future acquisition programmes for the Thai military, thanks to years of unrelenting efforts by the country’s Defence Technology Institute (DTI) and homegrown automotive firms.

Many of these vehicles are being showcased at D&S19 proving how far indigenous military vehicle manufacturing capabilities have matured.

Based in Pathum Thani province, Chaiseri has successfully upgraded an example of the Royal Thai Marine Corps’ (RTMC) 4×4 V-150 armoured car and delivered it to the service in September 2018, which is currently being used for evaluation and training.

The upgrade package includes engine and firepower improvements, including the installation of the Israeli-made IMI WAVE remote weapon station armed with a 12.7mm M2 heavy machine gun.

Chaiseri is quietly confident that there will be an opportunity soon with many ageing V-150 vehicles still in service in ASEAN countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines in a broad range of military and para-military applications.

The company is continuing to push its First Win family of 4×4 multipurpose vehicles (MPVs) with the aim of expanding sales in both domestic and export markets. For instances, its latest First Win 2 has been acquired by the Thai military’s Internal Security Operations Command.

The new vehicle features fully digitised mission systems – including a fire control system, all-round thermal camera, laser warning system, and automatic grenade launcher – as well as improved survivability with STANAG 4569 Level 2 ballistic protection and STANAG 4569 Level 2b mine protection thanks to its V-shaped hull.

Chaiseri earlier sold the original First Win to the Royal Thai Army and Malaysian Army. Leveraging on its momentum in Malaysia, the company has partnered with Deftech to offer upgrades to the army’s 4×4 Condor armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Around 200 Condor vehicles are believed to remain in service in Malaysian alone, although fleets of these remain in service in Argentina, Portugal, South Korea, Thailand, and Uruguay.

The proposed upgrades will increase the baseline vehicle’s combat weight to around 14 tonnes, but will feature a new and more powerful 300hp power-pack that offers a power-to-weight ratio of 21.5hp/tonne and an operational range of 600km (372 miles). Additional armour protection as well as 76mm smoke grenade launchers have been installed, while an optional automatic fire suppression system can also be fitted to enhance crew safety.

Thailand’s state-owned Defence Technology Institute (DTI) is developing the 8×8 Amphibious Armoured Personnel Carrier (AAPC) to meet the specific requirements of the Royal Thai Marine Corps (RTMC).

The latest AAPC prototype, which was built by Chawalit Public Company Limited with input from Singapore Technologies Kinetics, has a combat weight of up to 30 tonnes and measures around eight metres long and three metres wide. The proposed weapons fit for the vehicle is a remote weapon station armed with a 30mm calibre gun, although it could also carried a range of other manned or unmanned turrets if desired up to a maximum weight of two tonnes.

According to the DTI, work on the AAPC commenced around 2016 and leverages on the experience gained from the development of the ongoing 8×8 Black Widow Spider armoured vehicle being developed for the Royal Thai Army.

8x8
8×8 Black Widow Spider.

The AAPC is operated by a crew of three, including the driver, commander, and gunner, and can carry up to 11 fully equipped marines. The RTMC has specified a swimming speed of at least 10km/h, a requirement which DTI says has been achieved with a specially designed floatation kit which enables it to operate in the water in conditions of up to Sea State 3. Two rear-mounted propellers provide the vehicle with a maximum swimming speed of around 10 to 15km/h.

Finally, Panus Assembly is developing the 8×8 R600 armoured fighting vehicle, which is designed to be a multirole combat that can be adapted to meet the individual requirements of the army, navy and air force.

According to company specifications, the R600 features a baseline protection of STANAG 4569 Level 2 and measures 8.4m long, 3.2m wide, and 2.75m high with a combat weight of 25 tonnes. The vehicle is powered by a 600hp Cummins engine coupled to an Allison 4500 six-speed automatic transmission, enabling it to reach a maximum road speed of 110km/h and an operating range of 800km (500 miles).

The R600 is also amphibious, with rear-mounted twin waterjets driving it in the water at speeds of p to14km/h. The vehicle has a 600mm ground clearance and can traverse obstacles up to 500mm high. It can also climb a 60 percent slope and travel on a 40 percent side slope.

A prototype R600 was unveiled at a field trial at the Royal Thai Army (RTA)’s vehicle testing range in Kanchanaburi Province in late August, two years after Panus commenced development work.

Local firms nevertheless continue to face stiff competition from foreign designs. The RTA received the first batch of two refurbished ex-US Army 8×8 General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) in late August. The delivery comes after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 26 July that the US State Department had approved the sale of 60 Strykers, 60 M2 heavy machine guns, and associated equipment for $175 million.

DSCA announced that Thailand’s Stryker acquisition demonstrated a warming of Thai-US defence ties and would help enhance the kingdom’s ability to “defend its sovereign territory against traditional and non-traditional threats by filling the capability void between light infantry soldiers and heavy mechanised units”. The RTA is expected to induct initial batches of the Stryker by the end of the year in its 11th Light Infantry Division, which is based in the eastern province of Chachoengsao.