Thai Navy to Purchase 6 second-hand U-206 Class Submarines from Germany

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    Thai navy in line for first subs fleet
    THAILAND - 28 MARCH 2011

    Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has approved the Royal Thai Navy's 7.7-billion-baht purchase of six second-hand submarines from Germany for the first-ever missions to protect national interests in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, a navy source says.

    The military operation, to be overseen by the navy's new submarine unit, will be carried out in conjunction with training exercises for navy officers who will for the first time be trained in submarine technology and underwater missions with Thai-owned submarines.

    Rear Admiral Suriya Pornsuriya has been appointed the first commander of the submarine unit, the source said.

    "These submarines will travel at a depth of 30 metres," the source said. "Don't believe rumours they can't run in the Gulf of Thailand because the sea is too shallow. They can work well there."

    The six submarines are of the U-206 Class.

    They are operated by diesel engines and electric motors and are designed for coastal patrol operations.

    The German navy has used them for more than 30 years and is going to decommission them. However, the source said they can still be used for another 10 years.

    The Royal Thai Navy decided to buy them after a two-year feasibility study for their use in Thailand. One reason, besides educational and military purposes, is that Thailand has never had a fleet of submarines which makes the Thai navy "outdated", the source said.

    A recent meeting between Mr Abhisit, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and navy commander-in-chief Adm Kamthorn Pumhiran was "satisfactory" as the premier supported the purchase, the source said.

    The purchase plan will be forwarded to the cabinet for formal approval in the near future.

    It is part of a long-term weapons acquisition scheme granted by the Abhisit government to the army, navy and air force. They are allowed to draft plans to buy weapons over a 10-year period at a total cost of more than 500 billion baht.

    "This scheme has been criticised for favouring and awarding soldiers who continually support the government," the source said.

    The scheme may also encourage soldiers to support the Democrat Party in the coming general election because all weapon purchase plans will continue under the Democrat-led government, he said.

    Surachart Bamrungsuk, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science, said he disagreed with the prime minister's plan to purchase the six submarines at a time when the country is facing economic hardship.

    He said Thailand had no real need for the submarines.

    "I believe [the plan to buy the submarines] is a government populist policy to gain votes from military officers," he said.

    Mr Surachart said the cabinet needed to seriously review the navy's purchase plan since the project would involve more money if the submarines' maintenance cost was included.

    He said people concerned have long debated the need to have submarines but the issue had never been finalised. The navy has long pushed for the purchase of submarines, reasoning it wanted its personnel to learn about underwater missions.

    The Banharn Silpa-archa administration had once sought the acquisition of Swedish Kockums submarines in 1995 but the proposal came under fire for its lack of transparency and was aborted.

    Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he could not confirm the navy had won the prime minister's support for the purchase plan although he said he was aware the navy had studied the acquisition proposal "for some time".



    Source: Bangkok Post
     
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