NEW DEFENCE Minister Suthin Khlangsaeng said today (Sep. 9) he is considering holding talks with China to allow the exchange of a submarine for which the sought-after German engine is unavailable while the Thai navy is reluctant to accept a Chinese engine for either surface ships or fertiliser, TV Channel 7 said today (Sep. 9).
Suthin was questioned about the perplexing submarine deal at a discussion with Rangsit University’s doctorate programme students under the topic “Thailand’s security in the new world order and geographical challenge.”
Germany has so far refused to sell its MTU396 engine for the Yuan-class S26T submarine being built by China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co. However it was earlier reported that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister Panpree Pahitthanukorn would again ask their counterparts to do so during the United Nations General Assembly session in New York later this month.
The Chinese shipbuilding firm earlier insisted that a brand-new, Chinese-made CHD620 engine be installed aboard the S26T sub, a derivative of Russia’s Kilo-class sub, in lieu of the unavailable German engine.
Thai admirals reportedly looked undecided since China’s CHD620 engine had not been combat-proven anywhere or used by any world navies.
The planned procurement of the 12.4 billion baht Chinese-built submarine, which would be Thailand’s first in six decades, had been earlier scheduled for this year, then postponed until next year purportedly due to the pandemic situation over the last few years and then again delayed beyond next year, according to navy chief Choengchai Chomchoengpaet.
Even so Suthin mentioned today that he had come up with a solution to this problem with this being to exchange the submarine for surface ships.
The navy admirals told him that they no longer want this submarine and would accept more surface ships especially so to replace HTMS 442 Sukhothai, a corvette, that sank in stormy seas in the Gulf of Thailand last December.
Suthin added that there might be a lot of problems cancelling the contract to buy the submarine, for which 7 billion baht out of a total price 12.4 billion baht had already been paid in downpayment.
For this reason he has suggested that if exchanging the submarine for surface ships is not possible then perhaps it could be swapped for fertiliser that could be sold at a low price or even given free to farmers.
The navy admirals do not object to either scrapping the submarine contract or continuing with it but he personally thinks the public would be happy if this could be worked out because poverty is also a security issue.
Defence Minister Suthin Khlangsaeng, left in above photo and right in Front Page image, and a Chinese submarine. Top photo: TV Channel 7, Front Page photo: Matichon