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Thailand Cancels Purchase of Chinese Submarine, Agrees Replacing with Frigate or Patrol Vessels

Thailand was set to receive a submarine constructed by China this year or next but canceled the order after Beijing failed to meet Bangkok's demand as stipulated by the contract for the submarine to be equipped with engines manufactured by a German company.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — The Royal Thai Navy’s long-time dreams to acquire a submarine is almost certainly shelved (at least for the foreseeable future), following reports that China has agreed to substitute the intended submarine delivery to the Southeast Asian nation with a frigate or two patrol vessels.

According to sources from the Royal Thai Navy to the Bangkok Post, China has agreed to supply a frigate or two patrol vessels in lieu of the submarine initially intended for Thailand.

Thailand was set to receive a submarine constructed by China this year or next but canceled the order after Beijing failed to meet Bangkok’s demand as stipulated by the contract for the submarine to be equipped with engines manufactured by a German company.

Bangkok refused to comply with China’s insistence that its first submarine be equipped with Chinese-made engines, steadfastly demanding the use of engines made by a German company.

According to the Royal Thai Navy source to the Bangkok Post, the agreement between Bangkok and Beijing for the acquisition of a frigate or two patrol vessels as a replacement for the submarine was reached during a recent visit by Thailand’s Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang to China, which also included the Commander of the Royal Thai Navy, Admiral Phadung Phan-iam.

S-26T
The Yuan-class S26T submarine, as intended to be acquired by Thailand, is manufactured in China.

 

What is clear is that, for the time being, the Royal Thai Navy’s dream of possessing a submarine will not be realized, and its effort to join the “submarines club” in Southeast Asia is undoubtedly postponed for some time longer.

Thailand signed a contract with China in 2017 to acquire an S-26T Yuan-class submarine valued at US$350 million (RM1.5 billion) and was expected to receive it either this year or next.

 The China-made submarine intended for Thailand is reportedly 50 percent complete.

The submarine acquisition contract between Thailand and China faced uncertainties as Bangkok insisted on having its first submarine equipped with the German-made MTU396 engine, as agreed in the contract.

Beijing was unable to equip the Thai submarine with the German-made MTU396 engine due to military sanctions imposed by the European Union, which prohibit any export of military equipment or components to China.

As a resolution, Beijing proposed the use of its own submarine engine, the CHD 620 developed by Henan Diesel Engine.

China
Chinese Type 054A frigate

 

Thai media reports state that both countries reportedly reached an agreement last June, which would see Thailand’s first submarine equipped with the CHD 620 diesel-electric engine made in China.

However, the downfall of the Thai government led by military general Prayut Chan-o-cha seems to have changed the government’s decision regarding the submarine.

The Southeast Asian nation’s government, now led by civilian Prime Minister Srettha Thaivisin, appears to have changed the previous leadership’s decision to use Chinese-made engines on its submarine.

Thailand is adamant and unwilling to accept a submarine equipped with a Chinese-made engine.

Indeed, Bangkok lacks “high confidence” in the capabilities of Chinese-made engines, especially the CHD 620 proposed for Thailand’s S-26T submarine, as it remains untested. — DSA

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