Thailand Transforms Subs Acquisition Program to Frigates
The Thai government changed its plans from acquiring an attack submarine to purchasing an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigate with the budget allocated for the S26T submarine procurement project, Phase 1.
Thai Defence Minister Suthin Khlangsaeng, on 23 October 2023, said that the trade relationship between China and Thailand is a factor in the decision to modify the plan rather than cancel the agreement. According to the new program, acquiring a Chinese frigate costs approximately $387.4 million, while the European one’s price tag would be $466.27 million. The saved budget by acquiring a Chinese frigate might be extra finance for the submarine. Thailand, therefore, suspends the acquisition but does not cancel it. During a visit to the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters, Thai Defence Minister Suthin Khlangsaeng said the Royal Thai Navy’s submarine acquisition program could resume “when the country is ready”.
The Royal Thai Navy’s submarine procurement program has been halted due to Germany’s refusal to export the MTU 396 diesel generator set to power the S26T submarine.
The current Thai government has asked the Royal Thai Navy to propose an alternative to purchasing submarines. The Royal Thai Navy has proposed purchasing a frigate or Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) as an alternative to submarines. The Thai government chose the frigate.
The Royal Thai Navy announced its intention to procure three diesel-electric attack submarines in 2015, selecting the S26T submarine based on the Type 039B class submarine. The S26T submarine has a displacement of 2,550 tons and a length of 77.7 m. It has an additional Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) system and an MTU 396 diesel engine.