The army’s expensive balloon deflated

4 12 2010

It has been some time since PPT saw any stories about the army’s ill-fated zeppelin. The last time we posted on the so-called Sky Dragon airship, we said:

PPT has recorded several posts on the army’s Sky Dragon zeppelin and other very large expenditures which are going to be mired in corruption for years to come. Look here and follow the links. The Bangkok Post has yet another story on the ill-fated and ill-considered – just plain stupid, in fact – Sky Dragon.

The army, which approved the purchase in July, has now deflated the airship “at its hangar in Pattani before the army returns the craft to the US manufacturer, Aria International.” We wish them luck in even locating the company. Its website has been turned off for more than 6 weeks [Update, 4 Dec 2010: the site is running but has minimal information. Strikes us that the company has done a runner]. The army’s representatives “will travel to the US next week to discuss a replacement with the supplier. They will also discuss the possibility of repairing the craft.” Then this: “Deputy army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is poised to become the next army commander-in-chief, yesterday said … [h]e thought it was normal for the airship to have leaks as a result of weather conditions or storage problems.”

It seems Prayuth is going to continue the usual army dissembling over shady and dippy purchases.

See PPT’s earlier posts on this corrupt deal before, here, here and here.

An earlier photo when the Sky Dragon was inflated

Now the Bangkok Post tells us that the air ship is, and we quote: “out of order.” When was it in working order? PPT has not seen any report that the airship was meeting any specifications or criteria, so this is hardly news! Nor is this: “The supplier has not contacted the army since the army returned the aircraft and requested a replacement for it back in September. The US company had promised to replace the airship by this month.” Would anyone believe this of a penny company?

And, the expected position of the company: “The source added that the local representative of the US supplier has closed its office, leaving the army to repair the faulty equipment on the airship itself. But the job has proved almost impossible as the army says the company did not provide a repair manual. ” Of course they didn’t.

PPT guesses that Aria International was created as a kind of shell for those who were siphoning the funds for this “project.”

The report adds that “Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has been briefed about the airship problem, which first came to light during his predecessor’s tenure.” See Prayuth’s daft comment above. What has been his involvement with the purchase?

The report then suggests that “Members of the army’s committee which approved delivery of the airship are also worried they could end up being punished, said the source.” But read our earlier post, excerpted here, suggesting that it is the army bosses who need to be punished:

The Bangkok Post (5 March 2010) has reported that the 350 million baht airship is being handed over to the army today in Pattani, following a 6-month delay. The report notes “widespread criticism over whether the airship would be effective,” but says that the army has actually expedited delivery.

Apparently this has “caused a great deal of discomfort among pilots and members of the airship’s inspection committee as they fear being held accountable if it is not ready to go into service…”. Some of the committee went so far as to resign. Using an unnamed source, the Post says delays were because “it cannot fly and function according to specifications. The source said the army would not fine the company for the delay as the project had proved more complicated after the army requested the airship be fitted with more technical devices.”

Some balloons fly. Are these hot air balloons ( using army hot air for inflation?

The Post article then includes more juicy details of the complete farce that accompanies the enrichment of the brass:

“The craft needs to work in sync with ground equipment. But the equipment has not been used for many months and the system is not working properly through lack of use. The armoured vehicle purchased for use together with the airship is also out of action with a broken alternator which cannot be replaced in this country, the source said. Two out of five cameras attached to the airship can record videos but cannot send a streaming video signal to the main control system in real time, as was expected, said the source.

Then this classic bottom line: “More importantly, since we didn’t buy the complete system that also includes broadcasting and video file conversion features, the equipment is useless,’ said the source.”

So will anyone in the military-backed government nominally headed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva do anything? We doubt it because the military is seen as “entitled” to rewards for its excellent service in suppressing opposition and allowing Abhisit his position.



3 responses

1 01 2011
What the mainstream media won’t report III | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] in, say, the military? Our posts have had a fondness for the army’s non-flying, probably totally useless zeppelin. Why is that these things get reported but there is no follow-up on the broader issues of […]

7 03 2011
Korn on military spending but not electoral buying power | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] money” if you have “no idea” what they are doing with their budget? And what of failed zeppelins, “lost” arms, GT 200s and so […]

12 08 2011
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[…] ได้ลงข่าวในเรื่องนี้ไว้ เรื่องของความล้มเหลวและความสิ้นหวังนี้ได้ เกิดขึ้นมานานพอสมควรแล้ว […]

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