People's Liberation Army Navy Type 039 (NATO reporting name: Song-class) Submarines
People's Liberation Army Navy Type 039 (NATO reporting name: Song-class) Submarines

China Offers Royal Thai Navy Two Submarines as Purchase Deal Hits Snag

The Bangkok Post reported that Royal Thai Navy chief Adm Somprasong Nilsamai on Sunday confirmed that China made an informal offer to provide the Thai navy with two used submarines to train staff while waiting for the first of its order of Chinese-made submarines to be delivered. Adm Somprasong, however, declined to comment further on the issue. A source in the navy told the Bangkok Post that the offer was made because China has encountered problems in attempting to purchase a submarine engine from MTU in Germany for the S26T Yuan-class submarine being assembled in Wuhan for the Royal Thai Navy.

Aside from the good relations between Thailand and China, the secondhand submarine offer was made partly because the German supplier of submarine engines refused to sell one to China after learning that it would use the engine for assembling a new submarine for sale to another country. As negotiations continue, the delivery, previously scheduled for September next year, may have to be postponed until April 2024. Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan initiated the purchase when he was defence minister, although when asked about the latest development on Sunday, would not disclose any more details, other than to remark that “I am hoping for good news”.

On 2 July 2015, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) formally selected China’s Yuan-class (Type 041) platform to meet a requirement for three submarines. The RTN’s procurement committee voted unanimously in favour of purchasing the submarine, which has been designated S26T (Thailand), a modified export version of the Yuan class. On 1 July 2016, the RTN submitted a funding plan for its 36 billion baht submarine procurement project to the cabinet for consideration with the expenditure to be spread over 11 years. Steel cutting ceremony of the first S26T submarine was held on 4 September 2018 at Wuhan, China.

The Type 039A submarine (NATO reporting name: Yuan class) is a class of diesel-electric submarine in China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. It is China’s first AIP powered submarine and presumed to be one of the quietest diesel-electric submarine classes in service. This class is the successor of the Type 039 submarine. The official Chinese designation is 039A as the ship is based on the 039 class, but as the 039A has very little resemblance to the 039 it is commonly referred to as the Type 041. The engine is built by Shanghai Qiyao Propulsion Technology Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the 711th Institute. This 039A class is equipped with an air-independent propulsion system developed by the 711th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Group Corp.