Air balloon : the army forgot that there were trees in the South

After the swedish jetfighters, the submarine, the fake bomb detectors… the thai Army is not afraid of ridicule.

It’s even a marque de fabrique.

And the latest proof is : the air balloon scandal.

The Royal Thai Army yesterday came out in defence of the controversial Bt350-million airship acquired to boost security measures in the deep South – and even if the “Sky Dragon” has not been grounded as reported, it will fly into an uncertain future.

However, criticism has been widespread over its suitability for the nature of anti-insurgency work in the region. Moreover, its needs are substantial – a back-up system requiring a helicopter, a land vehicle, a ground command station and 55 officers. […]

Worrawit Basu, a senator serving on the Senate committee on the military, said he had heard the airship was not fully operational because it still lacked certain key devices. […]

A source with the airship’s operational support pondered its combat efficiency, saying the local landscapes comprised thick bushes and trees, unlike deserts in Iraq or Afghanistan where the US military used airships effectively in fighting off insurgents. […]

“The local insurgents in the South employ ambushes and hit-and-run attacks against targets, and they do not converge in large groups long enough to be seen by a wandering airship,” he said. (Nation)

Several things :
-this equipment is absolutely not suited for the South…  It’s so obvious. But the clowns in uniforms forgot that… there was a freaking jungle over there. Many trees. So many places to hide… !
-the thai Army seems unable to operate the balloon
-the operating costs seem high, too high  (55 officiers ? ! What are they talking about ? !).

The whole story is just grotesque.

Incompetence, greed, corruption and/or just plain, sheer, adamantine stupidity…

We knew that the US Army was happy to buy toilets at 30 000 USD a piece… I mean, anywhere, everywhere, the army is not the solution. It’s obviously part of the problem…

And this is especially true in Thailand.

4 Responses to “Air balloon : the army forgot that there were trees in the South”

  1. 1 Bangkok Pundit 4 February 2010 at 2:16 pm

    TC: Airships do work in trees. The model purchased by Thailand is one of the newer models, the Aeros 40d. On them working in trees see Washington Post:

    “This week, during a demonstration of blimps armed with cutting-edge sensor technology, a 260-foot airship drifted over the woods near Manassas, where a set of blue tarps was strung across the ground to represent a terrorist encampment.

    The color-sensitive sensors aboard the blimp easily detected the tarps despite a thick canopy of trees. The location was outlined in red on a monitor. Inside a gray turret attached to the gondola’s outer frame, a high-resolution camera turned its lens toward the terrain in question, verifying the find.”

    No doubt the military are not that competent, but the sources in the article criticizing it do not seem to be basing their criticism on facts and instead wondering aloud.

  2. 2 ThaiCrisis 4 February 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Okay, some “cutting-edge sensor technology” seem to exist. But it could be exactly that :
    Worrawit Basu, a senator serving on the Senate committee on the military, said he had heard the airship was not fully operational because it still lacked certain key devices. The US had prohibited their hand-over to the Army, he said.

    So what’s the point ?

    Plus… what about the scale ? 1 or 2 balloon for the whole the South ? I mean… what kind of decisive advantage It could give to the security forces ? Impress the locals ? Make the children laugh on the ground ?

    Plus… what about the type of surveillance. How on earth can we compare Afghanistan for instance, with a real insurgency, AKA groups of men in arms… with the situation in the South ? Where terrorists put bombs ?

    Are we sure there are military training camps in the South for instance ? And to discover them… they would need to move the balloon ! How air balloon could make the difference ?

    Again, you can look at the thing under every angle…. the story is just grotesque.

  3. 3 Bangkok Pundit 4 February 2010 at 5:14 pm

    TC: Disagree almost entirely. Give me some time to do another post on this. It is perfectly fine to raise questions – ideally the Senator would be able to question the Army Chief in parliament and then we can hear a response – but it does not mean that all speculation is true.

    There have been 3 instances of sales of weapons/equipment for the South. First, the Grippens 20+ billion baht and which won’t help. Second, the GT200 and similar devices -need I go into why they won’t help – for 1+ billion baht. Third, the 350 million baht – which also includes day/night cameras for helicopters – for the airship.

    On 1 and 2, we are very much in agreement with, but there is nothing on 1 in the media. 1 won’t help for insurgency unless they will be bombing. 2 doesn’t work and no sensible country uses them. On 3, airships/blimps/aerostats are now back in fashion through technology. They are used by militaries in a number of different countries successfully. Now, the military will have to prove the value of this particular airship and the purchase. There seem much larger questions on 1 and 2.

    One reason for the 55 staff is according to PRD:

    “According to army sources, a team of 55 commissioned and non-commissioned officers have been assigned to operate the manned airship. The work is divided into four areas: four officers are on command operations, 20 officers for air operations, 17 for ground operations, and 14 for support operations. The team is tasked to plan, command, coordinate, and support news gathering and suppression operations against the insurgency”.

    The cameras on the airship is meant to provide real-time footage to the command station on the ground.

  4. 4 Bedwyr 4 February 2010 at 5:32 pm

    The important bit that people have missed in the above is this:

    The US had prohibited their hand-over to the Army

    What has been prohibited and why?

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Thailand Crisis

Coup, Economic slowdown, Terror In the South... The situation is worsening in Thailand. Bumpy road like often before.

But this time, it's different.

The key to understand the present turmoil is the inevitable... succession of King Bhumibol.

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