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Thailand's troubled war blimp

Controversial U.S.-made dirigible meant to monitor Islamic insurgents
Thai airship 2011 08 12Enlarge
Thailand's $7.2 million U.S.-made blimp is meant to help surveil the nation's bloody Islamic insurgency. (Thai Government Public Relations Department/Courtesy)

A pricey U.S.-made blimp purchased to help watch over insurgency-wracked Thailand is, again, proving to be a headache.

The $11 million blimp is meant to act as an "eye in the sky," monitor over suspected jihadis who ambush troops, teachers and monks to drive out Buddhists and establish an Islamic sultanate in southern Thailand. (Our recently published four-part series on the conflict is here.)

But the blimp is struggling to stay airborne. It lost altitude recently and was forced to make an emergency landing, according to the Bangkok Post, which reported that no soldiers were injured.

These woes are just the latest to weigh down the blimp Thai generals call their "Sky Dragon," bought from Ohio's Arial International.

Some experts have wondered aloud if Thailand's blimp is just an expensive toy for the military. A military expert I quoted several years ago explained:

“It’s not a good purchase and it doesn’t address the nature of the threat,” said Surachart Bamrungsuk, a military specialist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University who also lectures at Thai military academies. “In the first World War, when British dogfighters shot down German airships, all they needed was one bullet.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/thailands-troubled-war-blimp