United States Sells Missiles to Thailand

In early July, the State Department approved the sale of an undisclosed number of AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) to Thailand. But the Pentagon will not deliver the missiles unless another Asian country acquires a similar capability because U.S. arms transfer policy restricts Washington from being the first to introduce advanced weaponry into a region. The United States has the same arrangement with Singapore and Taiwan.

A defense official said the total number of AMRAAMs was approximately 30. If delivered, Thailand will use them to arm F-16A/B fighter jets it previously acquired from the United States. AMRAAMs have a maximum range of roughly 75 kilometers and an autonomous radar enabling a pilot to “fire and forget.”

Official details of the sale are not available because its total value does not exceed the threshold requiring congressional notification. Under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, arms sales equaling or exceeding $14 million must be reported to Congress, which could block the sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 days of notification (15 days in the case of NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand).