Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MIGs and tanks beef up the military

MIGs and tanks beef up the military

MIGs and tanks beef up the military

THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces' military might on the ground and in the air is

set for a significant boost, as it receives new planes, tanks and armored

personnel carriers from abroad.

All of Cambodia's old MIG-21 fighter

planes are to be refurbished, sources say, while the government is also

purchasing jet trainers and reconnaissance planes.

It is also understood

that the shipment of the first 50 of 90 second-hand tanks purchased from Poland

and the Czech Republic has landed at Kompong Som port.

RCAF sources said

the remaining 40 T-55 tanks would arrive "soon", along with more than 20 armed

personnel carriers which are included in the deal.

Co-Minister of Defense

Tea Banh said late last year that the tanks would be used to "oppose the Khmer

Rouge's preparation for fighting during the dry season".

Meanwhile, a

reliable Ministry of Defense source said that four of Cambodia's old,

dilapidated MIG-21 fighter planes were sent to Israel for refurbishment in early

January.

Israel would refurbish all 21 of the Soviet-made planes

purchased by Cambodia in the 1980s - in a deal which included Cambodian pilots

traveling to the Soviet Union for flight training - but which are now disused

because of disrepair.

The refurbishment of the first four fighters was

due to be completed in three months, when Cambodian pilots would travel to

Israel to test fly them.

The remaining MIGs would be refurbished by the

end of the year, he said.

Cambodia would also receive six Czech-made

L-39 jet fighter trainers under the deal with Israel, the source

said.

The planes, described as being in a "good" but not completely

functional state, were due to arrive in Cambodia at the end of January. They

would be sent to an airfield in Kampong Chhnang province for further training of

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) pilots.

It remains unclear whether it

is planned to use the MIGs against Khmer Rouge-occupied positions.

The

defense source would only say that "with better jet fighters, we will be able to

increase our ability to protect the territorial integrity and space boundaries

of our country".

Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh did not directly respond

to questions about the MIG-21s, but confirmed a separate purchase of other

planes.

He said the government had bought six Italian P92 reconnaissance

planes, which are understood to already be in use in Cambodia.

Tea Banh

also confirmed that the government hoped to redevelop the Kampong Chhnang

airfield into an RCAF airbase. But he said the proposal had yet to be officially

considered because of financial problems.

"We intended to redevelop [it]

when we have the budget for it. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and

we are maintaining what remains [at the airport]," said Tea Banh.

Local

soldiers in Kampong Chhnang told the Post the RCAF planned to train jet fighter

pilots at the airport, which is currently under military control.

The

airfield - said to be the largest in the country - was built by Chinese

engineers during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 regime but was never completed

because of the Vietnamese invasion which ousted the government.

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