The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) staged a ceremony on April 25 to welcome the arrival from China of its new multi-purpose troop carrier vessel with its 196 officers and crew at the Chook Samet port in the Sattahip naval base.
On April 10, the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard Group-built Type 071ET dock landing ship received the delivery certificate from China and Thailand, according to a message on the Thai Navy’s official social media site.
The Chinese Type 071 dock landing ship design is redesignated as the Type 071ET, where “E” stands for export and “T” refers to Thailand. The ship has been modified to meet some of Thailand’s requirements, such as adding three helipads.
This dock landing ship was given the name HTMS Chang and the pennant number 792. This battleship has a length of approximately 213 metres, a width of 28 metres, and a displacement of over 20,000 tonnes and 25,000 tonnes when fully loaded. It can transport the Super Lynx mk110 and Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 sea air rescue helicopters currently deployed by the Thai Navy and 600 marines in combat.
On the first deck, the ship can hold eight amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) or nine armoured cars. On the second deck, it can keep the same amount. It has a floating dock that can hold an extra 57 AAVs, two landing craft with air cushions (LCACs), nine landing craft vehicle personnel (LCVPs) (LCVPs), or six landing craft mechanised (LCMs).
The Thai Navy prepared a grand welcome ceremony to prepare for the warship’s arrival. The Thai Navy dispatched various types of warships and aircraft to meet them off the coast of the military port.
In an uncommon display, the sole active aircraft carrier of the Thai Navy, the Chakri Narubet, was also present at the welcome ceremony. This is the aircraft carrier with the smallest displacement in the world, but precisely due to the presence of this aircraft carrier then, Thailand became the second Asian country after India to possess an aircraft carrier after World War II. Thailand is the only nation in Southeast Asia with a light aircraft carrier. In this instance, the Thai Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier directly to the 071 dock landing ship. It is evident that the Thai Navy places a high value on the listing of this landing ship.
Even though it is an aircraft carrier, the displacement of this aircraft carrier in Thailand is only about 7,000 tonnes, and even if it reaches the maximum displacement, it will be no more than 11,500 tonnes. Compared to the 071, the difference is still not small. The deck of this aircraft carrier in Thailand was devoid of aircraft because the Thai Navy lacks carrier-based aircraft. This aircraft carrier is typically inactive, so its unusual appearance on camera is surprising.
The question is that if the Thai Navy cannot maintain normal operations with even a 7000-ton aircraft carrier, why is a 20,000-ton dock landing ship necessary?
This is mainly because the Royal Thai Navy had formulated a “2017~2036 Twenty-Year Strategy” before this. In this strategy book, the Thai Navy made it clear that it will equip four large amphibious landing ships in the future to enhance The combat effectiveness of the Thai Navy in sea and air. In August 2019, the Thai Navy officially signed an agreement with China to produce the 071 dock landing ship, with a unit price of about $289 million. Four years later, China fulfilled the production contract as scheduled and delivered the 071 dock landing ship to the Thai Navy. This warship has also become the largest tonnage warship in the history of the Thai Navy, so, understandably, the Thai Navy can send such a fleet to welcome the 071 dock landing ship.
The price does not include outfitting the ship with electronics and weapons. The hull and power system of the dock landing ship that the Thai Navy bought are made in China. However, radar and weapon systems will come from somewhere other than China when the vessel is in Thai possession. This is because the Thai Navy wants to use equipment from Western countries. Thailand did this mainly because its military is more used to using Western equipment, and it is easier to keep track of. It also indicates that Thailand must maintain a geopolitical equilibrium, as China does not yet have sufficient sway in the region.
According to the RTN, the HTMS Chang is a multi-purpose vessel that may be used for public disaster relief missions and as a support ship for the RTN’s submarines.