Planes for what?

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the “Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) took delivery Wednesday of the first two of three Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100LR aircraft it has ordered.”

Some of the statements in the report interested us, not least as they appear to indicate that neither The Dictator nor Air force boss ACM Tritos Sonchaeng seem to have much idea about the planes they have just welcomed.

The Air Chief Marshal stated that there are “more than 300 aircraft of this model are being used by several countries…”.

This is simply wrong. Wikipedia is actually accurate on this, and is clear that while there are 319 orders, only 83 of these jets are in service, including the two RTAF craft. Most orders are by Russian official operators and government-linked corporations and by long-time Russian allies.

The air force boss said his plan is to “use the 1.1-billion-baht aircraft for transportation purposes.” The plane is marketed as a commercial passenger airplane, competing with Bombadier and other small passenger jets.

These planes double the VIP transport fleet, currently a Boeing 737 and an Airbus 319.

ACM Tritos reckons that “this is the first time the air force has turned to a Russian-made aircraft” is not a “problem” because “[n]inety per cent of pilots flying Airbus 320 and 319 aircraft can switch to flying the Sukhoi Superjet 100 because these particular models of Airbus aircraft are almost identical to the Sukhoi Superjet 100…”.

What’s wrong with the other 10%? And what is 90% of pilots flying what seems to be only one Airbus in the RTAF?

The Russian craft is fly-by-wire like Airbus, but as the ACM added, “Airbus pilots would still be required to undergo a proper training course using flight simulators … adding it is standard air force practice for getting its pilots familiar with new aircraft.”

The report stated that the “air force also wants to replace six Avro aircraft that have been in use for almost 50 years with Sukhoi Superjets…”. By “Avro” we assume the five decades old Hawker Siddeley 748.

ACM Tritos also reportedly stated that “the Prime Minister’s Office has set aside 1.7 billion baht to fund its plan to purchase an Airbus 340 from Thai Airways International to be used as a VIP aircraft for long-haul flights.” The RTAF would “maintain and operate the Airbus for the PM’s Office.” This plane would be “converted to first-class standards for VIP travel…”.

In other words, the VIP fleet may expand from two planes to four.

The dictatorship is ensuring that The Dictator gets what he wants and in royal style.

If one looks at the long list of aircraft from a huge list of suppliers, one also sees that one aspect of aircraft purchases is to ensure sufficient “commissions” to each generation of the military leadership.


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