The Thai government has again postponed the acquisition of the Chinese submarine S26T Yuan because of the lengthy certification process required for new engines. The press office of the Royal Navy stated on Thursday that this procedure ought to be finished by June 2023 at the latest.
This week, Thai Navy representatives met with China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. (CSOC) personnel and a Chinese Embassy staffer. The three-day discussion was focused on resolving the issue of outfitting the S26T submarine with a diesel engine, as Germany had previously refused to provide one (MTU 396 – TASS note). CSOC presented technical information on the non-proven Chinese CHD620 engine; consequently, Navy personnel, without accepting but not rejecting its use, indicated that they would continue investigating this alternative.
From January to April of 2023, the Navy intends to dispatch a representative to a Chinese plant to validate engine test results. In addition, the Navy necessitates that the company’s engines adhere to the Chinese Navy’s military specifications. This procedure is anticipated to be concluded by June 2023. Information regarding the engine will then be transmitted to the government and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ochi, who is also the country’s Minister of Defense.
China – Thailand Submarine deal
In March 2017, China presented Thailand with an offer to purchase three submarines for the price of two. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha announced this during a news briefing.
According to the daily Khaosod, the head of government vows that the acquisition of submarines will be “completely transparent.” “We must import them since we cannot build them domestically. However, we are asked to pay for two boats while providing the third at no cost, “Chan-Ocha remarked.
The Thai parliament approved expenditures connected to the Royal Navy’s acquisition of China’s first submarine in January. The budget allocated 13.5 billion baht ($386 million) for the purchase of an S-26T diesel-electric submarine (export version of project 041, according to NATO classification – Yuan). If the transaction is finalised, the submarine should be delivered to the client by 2023. In later years, Thailand planned to spend approximately $1 billion to acquire two other submarines of the same type.
“The Navy needs submarines to maintain the military balance in the region. This will help protect our sovereignty and maritime resources, especially in the Andaman Sea,” Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said. According to Thai media, neighbouring Malaysia has two submarines in service, Singapore has four and intends to acquire two more, Vietnam has a fleet of six submarines, and Indonesia is replacing two outdated German-made boats with three new ones from South Korea.
After World War II, the Thai Navy received as reparations several Japanese-made submarines, which served until the early 1970s. In the early 2000s, the Thai Navy resumed training submariners and established a submarine division with a training facility but no training subs. Thailand had considered obtaining submarines from Russia, Germany, and China throughout the years.
The surface displacement of the S26T submarine is 1850 tonnes, while its submerged displacement is 2300 tonnes. The maximum speed is 18 knots, and the range at 16 knots is approximately 8,000 nautical miles. It has sixty days of autonomy, can carry 38 crew members and has a maximum diving depth of 300 metres. Six 533 mm torpedo tubes and YJ-82 antiship missiles comprise the submarine’s arsenal.
The acquisition of the S26T Yuan submarine from China was given the go-ahead in April 2017. Since then, there have been numerous extensions placed on the agreement.
In March, a Thai Navy spokesman said that China is to equip the submarine with diesel engines from Germany’s MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH. But the German diesel and gas engine maker MTU refused to provide engines to China due to European Union sanctions imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
As per Thai media, China then offered Thailand two old submarines decommissioned from the Chinese fleet. They are only suitable for training. At the same time, Beijing proposed the replacement of German engines. But Thailand’s vice admiral, Pokkrong Montatfalina, said the Thai Navy had rejected all options China had offered.
The only Chinese submarine destined for Thailand that does not yet exist cost Bangkok $410 million. Fortunately, in 2020, protests in Thailand against a deal to sell submarines thwarted the purchase of two additional submarines. If the deal had gone through, the contract’s total value would have been $1.1 billion.
Chinese engine offered
Thai Navy spokesman Pokkrong Monthatphalin announced on August 9 that China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) had submitted specifications for an improved version of its CHD620 diesel engine to replace the German-made MTU396 diesel engine, Bangkok Post reported.
Earlier, Thai Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Thaloengsak Sirisawat indicated that any alternative must meet the agreed specifications, and the Navy would conduct a thorough evaluation of the proposal by September 15. The Navy will invite the CSOC to submit the engine for testing if it is found satisfactory. Upon successful completion, there will be no need to amend the contract. According to him, in accordance with the contract, CSOC is allowed to make changes to any elements of the submarine, provided that the replacement does not degrade the parameters of the equipment. If the substitute proposed by CSOC fails the test, the contract must be terminated, and the parties must negotiate to discuss compensation. At the same time, the Thai Navy is not inclined to repeat the procurement procedure.