The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) S26T submarine acquisition project from China is at risk of cancellation due to Germany’s refusal to provide MTU396 diesel engines needed to power the vessel to the East Asian giant.
Thailand’s Prime Minister has expressed that he will not allow the project to continue by accepting any other engine alternatives if China is unable to deliver the S26T submarine with German-made engines.
“What do we do with a submarine with no engine? Why should we purchase it? If the agreement can’t be fulfilled, we have to figure out what to do. Isn’t that how we solve a problem?” said Prayut Chan-o-cha who also serves as Thailand’s minister of defense on Monday (Apr. 4).
Developed from the Yuan-class or Type 039B submarine operated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the RTN signed a contract worth THB13.5 billion (about US$402.1 million) with China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co., (CSOC) for an S26T submarine in 2017. At the time of the contract signing, CSOC has promised that the submarine will be powered by German-made diesel engines with a planned delivery in 2023.
However, it was later revealed that the Chinese shipbuilder has requested to alter the contract by replacing Germany’s MTU396 diesel engines with Chinese-made ones – which were said to offer the same standard – but this request was rejected by the RTN. This has likely affected RTN’s intention to acquire two more S26T submarines in addition to Thailand’s financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
RTN’s S26T submarine project envisions a combined diesel and Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) powered attack submarine with a displacement of 2,600 tonnes. This submarine can be armed with a maximum of 16 torpedoes and/or 30 sea mines. Its specification further calls for a maximum speed of 18 knots and an underwater endurance of 20 days.
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