Defence Security Asia
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“HTMS Chakri Naruebet”, The Source of Amusement for Thais

In 1992, Thailand initiated an effort to construct an aircraft carrier estimated at US$285 million (RM1.14 billion) named "HTMS Chakri Naruebet" (CVH-911), meaning Sovereignty of the Chakri Dynasty. It is the sole aircraft carrier in the Southeast Asian region.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — At the end of the 1980s, the Royal Thai Navy desired a symbol to showcase the power and strength of the Southeast Asian naval force. Consequently, it decided to acquire an aircraft carrier.

In 1992, Thailand embarked on the construction of an aircraft carrier named “HTMS Chakri Naruebet” (CVH-911) with an estimated value of US$285 million (RM1.14 billion). The name translates to “Sovereignty of the Chakri Dynasty.”

The construction of HTMS Chakri Naruebet took five years and was completed in 1997, making Thailand the sole Southeast Asian country with an aircraft carrier in the region.

Thailand and its navy took great pride in being the only country in Southeast Asia to possess such a prestigious asset symbolizing naval strength.

The design of HTMS Chakri Naruebet was based on the aircraft carrier of the Spanish Navy, “Principe de Asturias,” and it was built by the Spanish shipbuilding company, Bazan.


However, Thailand faced a financial crisis in 1997, known as the “Asia Financial Crisis,” which affected several Asian countries, including Thailand.

Due to the serious financial and economic problems, HTMS Chakri Naruebet, intended to be a symbol of national pride and naval power, spent more time at the Sattahip Naval Base than sailing the seas.

Weighing over 11,400 tons (full load) and with an overall length of 182 meters, HTMS Chakri Naruebet became the smallest aircraft carrier in the world.

Despite its size, the Thai navy did not officially classify it as an aircraft carrier, even though it was initially capable of carrying up to nine Harrier STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft.

Instead, Southeast Asia categorized HTMS Chakri Naruebet as a “helicopter carrier.”

The vessel could accommodate 62 officers, 393 crew members, and 146 flight crew to operate nine AV-8S (Matador) Harrier fighter aircraft acquired from the Spanish Air Force. The carrier also carried six SH-70 helicopters for transporting Thai marine troops.

HTMS Chakri Naruebet
HTMS Chakri Naruebet and USS Kitty Hawk.


The joy and pride of the Royal Thai Navy in HTMS Chakri Naruebet came to an end in 2006 when the carrier’s air unit was disbanded, and all AV-8 Harrier aircraft owned by the Thai Marine Corps were retired.

 This left the Southeast Asian aircraft carrier without any operational aircraft on its flight deck.

Despite the lack of fighter aircraft, the Thai naval aircraft carrier continued to contribute to the country, particularly in humanitarian missions such as rescuing victims during the recent Tsunami.

However, the Thai people continued to mock the existence and function of HTMS Chakri Naruebet.

Due to its perceived lack of functionality, the carrier became a subject of ridicule by the Thai people, who considered its ownership a waste by the military regime.

The anger of the Thai people towards HTMS Chakri Naruebet increased when they learned that the carrier was used by the Thai military to take the Thai royal family on leisure trips around the country’s waters.

This led the Thai people to nickname HTMS Chakri Naruebet as the “royal pleasure cruise” or humorously as the “Thai-tanic,” mocking the vessel as nothing more than a “white elephant” in the Thai Navy’s fleet. — DSA




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