On May 12, IHS Jane’s reported that Thailand’s Marine Corps was looking to acquire an Israeli artillery system in the latest sign of collaboration between the two defense establishments.
Thailand and Israel have developed a close working defense relationship over the past few years, even though quiet cooperation only periodically appears in the headlines. Both countries already have ongoing defense collaboration in a number of areas, and Israeli companies have concluded previous deals with the Thai military, which continues to rule Thailand after coming to power following a bloodless coup in May 2014.
One of the avenues for cooperation has been Elbit Systems’ Autonomous Truck Mounted howitzer system (ATMOS) 155mm self-propelled howitzer. ATMOS was originally developed by Soltam Systems – now part of Elbit – as a private venture. The platform is known for its flexibility, efficiency, and speed.
In 2012, Elbit initiated a program with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) involving technology transfers, where Elbit built the first ATMOS platform in Israel and subsequent ones were produced by the Artillery and Mortar Production Division of the Royal Thai Army’s (RTA’s) Weapon Production Center. Thailand is now one of several countries that operates the ATMOS system, and the RTA has integrated it on a 6×6, ten-ton TATRA truck.
Last week, Jane’s reported that the Royal Thai Marine Corps (RTMC) has now evaluated Elbit Systems’ and intends to procure a small number of platforms to boost the defensive capability on Thailand’s eastern border, with negotiations between RTMC and Israeli officials already having taken place. No further details were given, including the exact number of platforms being mulled. Under the arrangement with the RTA, an initial six were built and further orders of up to 12 have been reported since.
If both sides are indeed moving forward towards realizing this, it would be no surprise given the defense collaboration between Thailand and Israel in general as well as the cooperation on ATMOS more specifically that already exists. And as the report notes, if RTMC does move ahead with the acquisition, it would likely include a local program as well given Thailand’s previous emphasis on technology transfer and indigenous production.