Thailand's navy will receive three submarines under Bt3.6 billion (US $104.2 million) worth agreement it signed with China.
"It’s finally Chinese submarines for Thailand. But the government would pay for only two as the third one was 'a free gift'," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced Wednesday.
The three submarines are Yuan Class S26 T, which have been developed exclusively for Thailand based on China’s Yuan Class Type 039 A, The Nation reported Thursday.
They would be nearly 78 metres long and 9 metres wide, equipped with the latest technology AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system that would allow them to dive consecutively up to 21 days without surfacing.
Normal nuclear-based submarines can dive around seven to 10 days.
Responding the the criticism on the Navy that was seeking Chinese submarines, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appealed people to understand why the country required Chinese submarines.
“The submarines from China are the cheapest with the quality relatively acceptable. It has also offered services after purchase, something extra that we have received.” Prayut added.
“I asked my Deputy Prime Minister Prawit [Wongsuwan], and he is ready for any examination of their worthiness.” He added.
“We are not rich, and we don’t have much money to spend on them. We cannot build them on our own so we have to buy them from others,” said Prayut.
Thailand had four submarines in 1937, the first country in Asean to have submarines and only the second in Asia. Made in Japan, they became damaged over time and were beyond repair. Following the defeat of Japan in World War II, the submarines were discharged in 1951. Since then, Thailand has never had any submarines.
The Thai Navy revived its quest for some submarines to be deployed in the Thai waters, especially in the Gulf of Thailand, in 1995.
Several western countries – Germany, Sweden, France and Russia were ready to offer new submarines at moderate prices, but the Navy was unable to buy due to budget shortage and political issues.