Thailand is set to proceed with the second phase of an upgrade to its air force Lockheed Martin C-130H transports, with the country's cabinet having approved a 1 billion baht ($32 million) budget for the project.

State-owned prime contractor Thai Aviation Industries (TAI) is expected to select a vendor around the end of 2008 to conduct the work, which is likely to begin during 2009 and conclude within a further two years. To introduce additional avionics equipment, the deal forms part of a new armed forces procurement allocation worth 7.7 billion baht.

TAI is also leading an earlier 900 million baht effort, under which six Thai C-130s are to complete a Rockwell Collins global air traffic management upgrade by 2009, receiving new communication and navigation equipment, plus radar, autopilot and flight management systems. The work will enable the aircraft to operate without restrictions in Europe and North America.

Thai C-130 
© Australian DoD

Thailand's C-130 modernisation effort mirrors that of Indonesia and Singapore, both of which last year contracted Singapore Technologies Aerospace to upgrade six and 10 of their Hercules, respectively.

Bangkok also wants to replace its Northrop F-5E fighters that have been in service since the 1970s and are due to be decommissioned around 2011. Several manufacturers have already held informal talks with Thailand for the initial sale of up to 12 aircraft, and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab Gripen are likely to be among those in contention when a tender is called.

The Royal Thai Air Force also has requirements for new search-and-rescue helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, unmanned air vehicles and additional Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility and Boeing CH-47 transport helicopters.


Source: Flight International