RTN clarifies on Chinese submarine deal

The Royal Thai Navy announced today (Monday) that the Yuan-class S26T diesel electric submarine it decided to purchase from China was worth the spending and the sub could operate in the Gulf of Thailand.

In its first official statement since the cabinet quietly approved the RTN's plan to procure one submarine from China at an estimated 13 billion baht last week, triggering widespread criticism against the lack of transparency in which the project was endorsed, Admiral Luechai Rooddit, the navy chief-of-staff, stressed the need of the RTN to have a submarine after having lost its capability in submarine warfare for not having one sub for over six decades while most countries in the region have commissioned submarines in their services.

The acquisition of Yuan-class S26T diesel electric Chinese submarine will mark the turning point of the RTN in laying the foundation for underwater warfare, said the admiral.

He dismissed the widespread claim that the submarine would get stuck in the seabed in the Gulf which averages only 50 metres deep, saying that, during the Second World War, submarines of the US and Allied forces plied the Gulf occasionally, inflicting damages to Thailand which allied with the Axis.

Admiral Luechai also said that the RTN had regularly joined war game with the US in the Gulf with the participation of US submarines without any problem.

He maintained that the RTN had been pushing for a submarine from every government past and present and almost succeeded on three occasions in 1995, 2010 and 2011.

Regarding the procurement process, the navy chief-of-staff said that RTN had carefully considered the proposals of submarine suppliers from six countries, including China and found the Chinese proposal most favoured in several aspects, be it the submarine capability, the continuity of submarine armaments and the affordability to pay for the vessel.

He insisted that the Chinese submarines were reliable and credible, citing the fact that China has one of the biggest fleet of submarines in the world and Chinese submarines have been operating worldwide.

Regarding the payment for the Chinese sub, Admiral Luechai said the RTN could afford the payment with its annual budgets to be made in 17 instalments of about 2.1 billion baht annually.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)