The Royal Thai Navy yesterday countered the opposition's allegation of irregularities surrounding the navy's scheme to modernise combat systems on two frigates.ADM Thaweewut Pongpipat, a special adviser to the navy who serves as chairman of the committee implementing the scheme, said Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat had nothing to do with the changes made to the procurement of the combat systems.
The navy had changed from the New Generation Dagaie System (NGDS) revolving decoy system by Sagem to the non-revolving Soft Kill Weapon System (SKWS) by Terma because the first choice required too much space to be fitted to the frigates and cost a lot more, he said.
Saab AB, which was awarded the navy contract to upgrade the combat systems, had inspected the frigates and determined that the Sagem's NGDS could not be fitted to the warships due to a lack of room, said ADM Thaweewut.
The non-revolving decoy system, on the other hand, could be installed in a position that allows for ideal coverage in combat, he said.
However, Sirichok Sopha, Democrat MP for Songkhla, said during Sunday's censure debate that the Sagem decoy unit can provide significantly better protection from missile threats, as it has 360-degree coverage. The Terma decoy system was a "World War II-period military technology" that had limited air defence capabilities due to its design, said Mr Sirichok.
ADM Thaweewut insisted that the Terma system was not outdated. It has been updated recently so that warships no longer needed to turn to launch the decoys in different directions, he said.
ADM Thaweewut said that most Nato member countries use this system, citing Denmark, Australia, the US, Indonesia, Morocco, Chile, and Romania.
The Sagem decoy system costs 300 million baht whereas the Terma system costs only 200 million baht _ Saab AB had offered accessories worth a total of 103 million baht, he added.
"The decoy system costs only 300 million baht, so it was impossible for us to get the 1 billion baht of 'spare change' as claimed by Mr Sirichok," said ADM Thaweewut.
The defence minister was also questioned by the opposition over a contract for the repair and maintenance of three vessels involving Marsun Co worth 553.5 million baht.
Marsun apparently failed to meet the terms of reference (ToR) but was awarded the contract anyway, said Democrat list-MP Alongkorn Ponlabutr.
Mr Alongkorn said the deal drew the attention of the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG), which suspected unfair competition and recommended a review. VADM Pallop Tamisanon, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the navy, insisted that project was done strictly according to the ToR.
ADM Jakchai Phucharoenyos, navy chief of staff, said the navy was ready to explain the deal to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.