Thailand and China are increasing military cooperation with the “Hawk Attack 2022” air exercise.

In June, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin visited Bangkok to discuss the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region with Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Thai prime minister who also wears the hat of defense minister. The two officials also discussed the possibility of “strengthening the alliance” between the two countries.

Since 2003, Thailand has been on the list of “major non-NATO allies”, which also includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. This status, created in the late 1980s by Washington, facilitates relations with the US military and facilitates the acquisition of military equipment from the United States.

In addition, the General Staff of Thailand is betting on this status to receive F-35A fighter-bombers from the American manufacturer Lockheed-Martin … In January, it was suggested that it wanted to acquire 8 to 12 units … In the end, it was forced to reduce its ambitions to only in duplicate, as Parliament only gave him a portion of the budget he claimed to finance this possible purchase…which, however, could be denied by the US administration due to the increasingly close relationship between Bangkok and Beijing.

Indeed, although Thailand has received much US-made military equipment in the past, it regularly looks to China, which supplies it with Type 69-II tanks and Type 85 armored vehicles manufactured by Norinco. And recently it ordered three S-26T submarines [version export du Yuan 039A] to the shipbuilder China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co [CSOC]. It should be noted that the program is crossing stormy seas, given that it has been heavily criticized in Bangkok for its cost and that it is facing difficulties because the German engine manufacturer MTU has refused to provide engines for these buildings.

Be that as it may, this rapprochement between Thailand and China has gained momentum since 2014, i.e. after the successful coup in May of that year by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, then Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army. While Europe and the US condemned this coup, Beijing took a cautious stance, refraining from any negative comments… Which allowed it to increase its economic and military influence in this country.

Thus, in 2015, the forces of Thailand and China began the first aviation exercises “Falcon Attack”. [ou « Falcon Strike »] at Udon Thani Air Base in northern Thailand.

After a two-year blackout due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these military maneuvers resumed on August 14, with a novelty for the Chinese side.

Indeed, the People’s Liberation Army [APL] deployed for the first time the Xian JH-7 “Flooder” tactical bomber, as well as at least six J-10C/S fighters and a KJ-500 control and early warning aircraft. These aircraft will compete with five JAS-39 “Gripen”, three Alphajet and Saab 340 AEW of the Royal Thai Air Force. [RTAF].

China’s Ministry of Defense explained that the exercises are aimed at “strengthening mutual trust and friendship between the air forces of the two countries” and “promoting the continuous development of the strategic partnership” between Thailand and China.

“Since Thailand has adopted Western training methods, this type of exercise can help China better understand the effectiveness of Western weapons’ equipment and tactics,” a military analyst commented in the columns of the Global Times newspaper, which follows the Chinese Communist Party line. [PCC]. In addition, he continued, the RTAF “has the ability to measure the changes that the Air Force’s air component has undergone in recent years” and “feed into that reflection to make new decisions for its future capability needs.”

Photo: JH-7 – Dmytro Pichugin – , GFDL 1.2

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