Last month, Thailand moved forward on the acquisition of an Israeli artillery system. The development is just the latest sign of collaboration between the two countries as Bangkok looks to boost its capabilities to address a range of security challenges.
As I have noted before, Thailand and Israel have developed a close working defense relationship over the past few years, and both countries already have ongoing defense collaboration in a number of areas, with Israeli companies concluding past deals with the Thai military (See: “The Truth About Thailand’s Defense Budget ‘Hike’”).
One area of collaboration has been Elbit Systems’ Autonomous Truck Mounted howitzer system (ATMOS) 155mm self-propelled howitzer. In 2012, Elbit initiated a program with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) involving technology transfer, 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 has since become one of several countries that operates the ATMOS system. And since then, reports have also periodically surfaced about additional orders being placed as Thailand seeks to both enhance some of its aging capabilities as well as boost its defenses on its eastern border, with further orders of between six and 12 (See: “Thailand Marine Corps Eying Israel Artillery System”).
Last month, we finally saw some more signs of progress on this front. According to Shephard Media, Admiral Jumpol Loompikanon, the deputy permanent secretary of defense, hosted a ceremony in late March to sign a contract for six units of the ATMG from Elbit Systems.
The contract is reportedly worth around $26.39 million, and the systems are expected to be delivered within 28 months. And in line with Thailand’s focus on technology transfer and indigenous production, some parts of the system will be assembled in Thailand by the Weapon Production Center’s Defense Industry and Energy Center (WPC DIEC), including through technology transfer from Elbit Systems.
No further details were publicly disclosed by the Thai military regarding the purchase. But as this and subsequent orders take shape, they will be worth keeping an eye on within the broader context of the defense ties between Thailand and Israel as well as Bangkok’s continued attempts to finance its military modernization needs in spite of the difficulties it faces in doing so.