U.S. Congress Approves Thai AH-6i FMS

 - September 27, 2019, 3:36 AM
An AH-6i hover-taxis at Boeing’s Mesa, Arizona, plant. The type can be armed with Hellfire missiles and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rockets, which share a common laser-guidance system. (Photo: Boeing)

ThU.S. Congress has approved a potential deal for eight Boeing AH-6i light attack helicopters for Thailand, worth around $400 million. The foreign military sales (FMS) package would see the AH-6i armed with 50 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles and 200 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rockets. This kind of precision-guided munition will be new to the Thai arsenal. Also included are 10 M134 Miniguns, GAU-19/B 0.50-inch machine guns, AN/APX-123 IFF, and a range of avionics and systems.

The notification commented that the AH-6i will replace the Royal Thai Army’s (RTA) seven Bell AH-1F Cobras, but AIN understands that the light helicopters are for a separate program for the Royal Thai Army’s Special Warfare Command and that the AH-1 replacement program has slipped in terms of priority. Bell is promoting its AH-1Z Viper as the natural replacement for the Cobra. The RTA later also revealed that the budget for the program is around $138 million, meaning a downsized package either in terms of airframes or munitions and systems.

The proposed sale follows the delivery of the first pair of M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles in mid-September and would be the first arms deal between Washington and the kingdom since the Thai general election in March 2019. Thailand could become the second nation to order the AH-6i, following Saudi Arabia, which ordered 24 for the National Guard in 2014. Jordan had earlier announced an intention to buy the AH-6i, but no subsequent progress has been reported.