More bad news for the U. S. relations with Thailand, the government has agreed purchase of 10 more VT-4 tanks.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Thailand has taken another step in a burgeoning arms trade with China, with the Thai government approving the purchase of more Chinese-built tanks.
According to Thai government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the cabinet has approved the acquisition of 10 more VT4 main battle tanks designed and built by China’s Norinco.
This batch of tanks, reportedly costing $58 million, will be the second batch of VT4s ordered by Thailand after an earlier batch of 28 tanks was ordered in 2016. The VT4s will replace the elderly M41 Walker Bulldogs currently operated by the Royal Thai Army.
The Southeast Asian kingdom has an outstanding requirement of 200 tanks and had originally turned to Ukraine for its T-84 Oplot tanks, with 49 acquired in 2011. However, delays meant that only a small handful had been delivered by 2014, and the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine means it will be unable to fulfill the Thai order, leading to Thailand tapping China for its VT4s.
The VT4 is a 52-ton main battle tank developed by China specifically for overseas export. It incorporates technology from the Type 99A currently fielded by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It is armed with a 125mm smoothbore cannon also capable of firing guided missiles, has a remote weapon station on the turret armed with a heavy machine gun and can be fitted with an active protection system. The fire control system has hunter-killer capabilities, laser rangefinder, panoramic sight and a third-generation thermal imaging system.
This most recent order is the latest in a series of defense articles Thailand has acquired from China, and it serves as an example of strengthening ties between the two countries, with some recent examples being a trio of Type 039 Yuan-class diesel-electric attack submarines in late 2016 and VN1 eight-wheel drive infantry fighting vehicles announced in March.
The Royal Thai Armed Forces already operate several types of equipment of Chinese origin, including frigates and offshore patrol vessels of the Royal Thai Navy.