Saturday, October 27, 2012

US to Dump 2nd Hand Weapons on Thailand

And where Thailand should get its vehicles and aircraft from instead. 

Tony Cartalucci
October 28, 2012

The Bangkok Post has reported in their article, "US offers cheap planes, warships," that the US Department of Defense (DoD) has made an offer to sell second-hand weapon systems to Thailand including, "1,150 humvees used in military operations in Iraq, three Black Hawk helicopters for the army, two Perry Class frigates for the navy and five F-16 jet fighters.'

Image (Wikipedia): A US-made F-16 fighter jet, 15 of which might find their way into Thailand's air force. 

Thailand over the years has diversified its weapons procurements. While the bulk of Thai military equipment is still American in origin, including M-16 service rifles, F-16 fighters, and Stingray tanks build especially for export to Thailand by Textron, armored personal carries from Ukraine are expected to arrive soon from contracts signed in 2006-2011, while Russian helicopters and air defense systems have already begun arriving in Thailand starting in 2011.

And while it is not uncommon for many nations to procure weapons from foreign sources, it is becoming increasingly uncommon for a nation with the population and resources of Thailand to continue doing so without beginning the development of its own industries. Comparable developed and developing nations including Brazil and Iran have thriving aerospace and armament industries. The technical competence necessary to build military aircraft and weapons, as well as shipbuilding capabilities can easily be translated into civilian industry, creating jobs and driving the development of a better and more complete technical education.

Brazil's aerospace industry not only produces military aircraft, but also civilian airliners. Brazil's Embraer builds and provides services for a wide variety of aircraft fulfilling various roles in transportation, logistics, and defense.

Image (Wikipedia): The Brazilian made Embraer 190 passenger aircraft. A well-developed, focused educational system that promotes, not diminishes, technical competence is required for the technological, and therefore socioeconomically progress of any nation-state. Trading rice for technology is increasingly untenable as Thailand's trading partners flounder in economic crisis that sees no end in the foreseeable future.  Thailand would be better off looking inward, and fully developing a diverse set of economic industries.

Iran perhaps represents a path Thailand could more easily follow, that is - slowly transforming its aerospace servicing and repair industry along with the licensed construction of foreign aircraft designs, into the design and construction of indigenous aircraft.

Thailand already has a talented aerospace workforce, it just needs to be bigger with more ambitious local investors prepared to expand passenger and repair services into a larger and ultimately more profitable industry. Thailand has a large population, approximately 70 million people. It is also abundant with resources both natural and human.

To tap these resources a more serious commitment to education, and in particular, technical education must be made. Currently, what passes for education policy in a Thai government led by a Wall Street--proxy, consists of unsustainable handouts of flashy "tablet PC's" to 1st grade school children that will be broken, lost, stolen, abused, and if all else fails, obsolete within a year, while chronic underfunding in all other regards continues to erode Thailand's educational institutions.

What Can Thai People Do While Government and Industry Twiddle Their Thumbs? 

There looks to be no end in sight in terms of government misappropriation of time, money, and energy. In the meantime, the average Thai could consider improving education locally through tuition centers that specialize in teaching science, math, and technical skills to augment public education. This can be done by leveraging the immense, and free, resources online - and in particular OpenCourseWare. Coordinating with, instead of working against local public schools could help ensure the human resources needed to develop all of Thailand's industries are properly cultivated.

Hackerspaces - local clubs where memberships are paid to one or several entrepreneurs for access to a "space" and appropriate tools for experimenting and prototyping - could also give way to an indigenous aerospace industry, though not one in a traditional sense. The website, DIY Drones features unmanned aerial vehicle enthusiasts who collaborate online as well as in person, at local hackerspace-like venues. Despite the bad press and gross misuse UAV "drones' are subjected to by Western institutions, this technology is most definitely safer and more beneficial in the people's hands.

Drones can be used for photography, mapping, sponsored competitions, courier services, scientific research, and of course education across several fields, from aerodynamics and engineering, to electronics and computer programming. Looking at some of the projects on DIY Drones, it is not hard to imagine increasingly more complex and capable uses to put this technology to use for the benefit of communities and small businesses across Thailand.

Image: A model car for a model industry? Indigenous, small business-operated car manufacturers defining their market as a province or a district might be the future of the auto-industry. Smaller companies leveraging computer-controlled manufacturing technology, and with a skilled, well-educated workforce, can easily adapt and re-purpose their means of production to fill a wide variety of niches, beyond even auto production. 

Cars and trucks, likewise could follow a very similar model, and would of course be much easier to design, develop, build, and employ than aircraft. Thailand has a large auto-parts industry already, and there already exists small companies creating indigenous vehicles sold domestically built from these parts producers. 999 Motorsports produces indigenous race cars which are then used in organized events and racing schools.

Video: Just in case readers are unaware of just how capable computer controlled manufacturing is, here is a computer-controlled mill, machining an engine block.

With the advent of personal manufacturing, and increasing accessibility to computer controlled manufacturing technology, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that soon provincial and even district custom car manufacturers, like 999, might spring up and displace centralized, corporate-financier monopolized operations like Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and others. Parts suppliers and skilled labor would easily adapt to the shift. The only people put out would be the shareholders of large multinationals and the politicians whose pockets they frequently line.

But again, education, and more specifically, technical education is needed for this "redistribution of wealth, via local entrepreneurship,"as well as local communities who have faith in themselves and the ability to collaborate constructively and pragmatically.


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