In early 2009, Aria International, Inc. announced a contract from the Royal Thai Army to provide in-country surveillance and communications solutions and services, for an aggregate purchase price of $9.7 million. The RTA surveillance system consists of a manned airship with military-grade imaging and communications systems, a state-of-the-art Mobile Command and Control Vehicle, and upgrades to existing communications and facilities to receive real-time surveillance data.
Thailand has the questionable distinction of being saddled with the bloodiest Islamist insurgency most people have never heard of. The American export system hindering their order, however, is well known around the world…
The Thai government recently began to alter its approach, but this does not remove the need for military operations – or for the long-endurance surveillance that must accompany holding operations in contested zones. The Thai government has purchased a couple of CyberEye II small tactical UAVs from Australian manufacturer Cyber Technologies, but their 6-10 hour endurance falls short of what’s required.
Major General Chawalit Srisilpanandana, Director General-Directorate of the Royal Thai Army’s Logistics Department, says that: “The deployment of these new systems and services by Aria International Incorporated will make a significant impact on the capabilities of our deployed forces in the South of Thailand.”
Nov 3/09: The Bangkok Post quotes Thai Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who said that deployment of their airship is held up by American export bureaucracies, and could result in contract cancellation.
“High-definition security cameras are considered to be warfare equipment and can’t be acquired without going through strict procedures…. Internal coordination between the manufacturer of the airship and the US administration is required before the endorsement for the export of the cameras…. That should take some time. And I do not know how long it will take.”
The project was originally scheduled for launch in October 2009. Thai Army staff are being trained to fly the airship, and construction of the airship hangar in Pattani has just started. The construction delay will buy the project some time, but resolution will be required soon. One obvious alternative, of course, is to have the Thai government purchase a surveillance turret from a European or Israeli supplier, and hand it over as government-furnished equipment. This would require a contract adjustment, but may be quicker.
July 13/09: Aria International announces that its Thai partner NEO P.E.B CO., LTD. wil now begin the process of building an airship hangar and support facility in “southern Thailand” (later revealed to be Pattani), per the terms of the contract.
July 1/09: Aria International announces that it has completed purchase of an Aeros 40D “Sky Dragon” Airship, S/N A40D-21, from Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp. in Montebello, CA. Delivery to Thailand is expected “in a few days,” and Aria has pre-positioned its permanent team in Thailand.
April 30/09: Aria announces the contract. The airship itself is made by Aeros, but under this contract, Aria is responsible for integrating all system components and delivering a complete turn-key solution, conducting initial operations, and continuing maintenance. A condition of the contract requires the Company to configure equipment in the U.S. and integrate and deliver the hardware in Thailand within 120 days of contract award, to include day/night surveillance equipment.
Aria will also provide the RTA with certain ancillary services including installation, training, and the construction of an airship hangar. Aria International release.