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Thailand Cancels Chinese Submarine Deal Over Unavailability Of German Engines; Opts For A Frigate Instead

By Sakshi Tiwari- October 22, 2023


Months after signaling the purchase of a submarine from China, Thailand announced that it had decided to put the plan on hold due to the unavailability of a German engine and acquire a Chinese frigate instead.


In an unexpected announcement, Thai Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang recently disclosed that the Royal Thai Navy has ordered a Chinese frigate instead of moving ahead with the planned acquisition of a Chinese Yuan-class submarine due to the unavailability of a German engine as initially stipulated.


This does not, however, automatically imply that the purchase of the submarine is canceled. During a visit to the Naval Headquarters, Sutin said that the country was not abandoning the submarine deal with China. It has been placed on hold until a later, unspecified time when it is ready.


“The submarine project is not scrapped but will be shelved for a certain period…It will resume when the country is ready.” The minister fell short of specifying a schedule for bringing the submarine purchase back on track.


In 2017, the initial agreement to purchase the S26T Yuan-class submarine with German-origin MTU-396 diesel engines was drafted. However, trouble started brewing after Germany scuttled the deal, citing policy constraints that prevented the planned engines from being included in any Chinese military equipment.




China’s Type 039 Yuan-class submarine (via Twitter)

The deal ultimately hit a snag as Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha threatened to call off the agreement if the Chinese could not install the German-origin MTU-396 diesel engines specified in the original purchase agreement. 


To prevent the deal from collapsing, Beijing offered a local alternative and reverse-engineered Chinese-made engines, CHD620, made by China’s state-owned submarine manufacturer, certified by German MTU. Several hard-fought negotiations followed, during which the Chinese delegates relentlessly pushed to use their engine.


Thailand is known to have rejected a Chinese-made engine for the submarine, ostensibly owing to quality concerns. The Royal Thai Navy also stated that it was sticking to the contract’s original provisions, which it feels are non-negotiable.


“What do we do with a submarine with no engines? Why should we purchase it?” Prayut had told journalists in April 2022. 


The Thai government approved the purchase of three Yuan-class submarines from China for US$1.05 billion in April 2017. However, due to budget constraints, purchasing only one submarine was allowed, valued at US$403 million, while the other two were shelved. The one submarine was initially slated to be delivered by 2024.


Chinese Frigates, Not Submarines

Although the submarine deal has been in a deadlock for the last few years despite Beijing’s intense lobbying and assurances directed at the Thai junta government, the recent announcement may come as a surprise since Thailand hinted that it might go ahead with the purchase with Chinese-developed engines earlier this year.


In June this year, EurAsian Times reported that with no signs of a turnaround by German authorities, the Thai government was actively considering the Chinese engine on offer. At the time, some unnamed sources had revealed that Thailand was in talks with Pakistan for information about the quality of its fleet of Chinese-made submarines fitted with Chinese engines.


Last month, former Navy chief Admiral Choengchai Chomchoengpaet said he would propose that the cabinet approve a submarine with a Chinese engine. However, the Thai government appears unwavering in its resolve to procure the originally stipulated German engine-fitted submarine.


The government quickly ordered the Navy to rework its project plans. This eventually led to two proposals: the first called for the acquisition of an offshore patrol vessel, and the second, the purchase of a frigate equipped with anti-submarine weapons and systems.


The government and the defense minister decided to proceed with the frigate option, even though it would have cost 17 billion baht, or 1 billion baht more than the proposal to buy submarines.


“The frigate option will compromise the Navy’s capabilities slightly when compared with the submarine project, but the Navy can accept it,” the defense minister said. However, He did not specify which Chinese frigate the Royal Thai Navy was eyeing to purchase going forward.



Scorpene Class submarine

File Image

Moreover, the minister also noted that he was aware that the construction of the ordered submarine had reached an advanced stage and was nearing completion. He emphasized that China would soon figure out what to do with the vessel since the acquisition would not go through for now.


The Chinese have demonstrated well-known capabilities in reverse engineering technology obtained by foreign countries to develop their system. However, Thailand’s misgivings about Chinese engines could be explained by the lack of examples of domestic propulsion technology.


Although Beijing has yet to make official comments, it is not expected to go well with the country. Even though Thailand has indicated that terminating the purchase will not affect bilateral relations, China has more at stake than just selling one submarine to Thailand. China’s inability to provide the submarine with the original engine and the falling apart of the agreement would jeopardize its future submarine sales.


Despite that, the reports indicate that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang had discussed this option with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin earlier this week in Beijing. Both leaders decided to give the Thai suggestion some thought.


Contact the author at sakshi.tiwari9555(at)gmail.com

Follow EurAsian Times on Google News


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6 hours ago, My Penis is hungry said:

In an unexpected announcement, Thai Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang recently disclosed that the Royal Thai Navy has ordered a Chinese frigate instead of moving ahead with the planned acquisition of a Chinese Yuan-class submarine due to the unavailability of a German engine as initially stipulated

Why buy a Frigate instead just cancel the order, the Chinese were in breach of contract not being able to supply the German-origin MTU-396 diesel engines specified in the original purchase agreement. Basic contractual law.

Hang on, I get it the US$403 million earmarked for the sub was $300 Million to China and $103 Million in Backhanders to Government and Navy officials and the money has already been spent on Bangkok Mansions, Sports Cars, Designer Watches and Mia Noi’s so they had to spend money are face the prospect of paying back the Ill gotten gains.

Nothing to do with Thai-Sino relationships 


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  • 8 months later...




Admiral Cholathit Navanugraha... has medals, badges, clean office...

BANGKOK — The long-troubled procurement of Chinese submarines, stemming from a G2G contract during Thailand’s military government, has reached a conclusion and is being presented to the current elected government’s cabinet meeting.

It seems Thailand has limited options, as the key issue of desiring German-made engines, which became prohibited in 2020 due to EU sanctions on China, was actually a weakness in the contract from the beginning.

Admiral Cholathit Navanugraha, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Navy and Chairman of the Submarine Procurement Committee, explained that since the Navy signed the contract in 2017, it specified the procurement of MTU 396 diesel engines to power the submarines’ generators. The contract with China only specified the engine code, not that it must be purchased from Germany.

In 2021, China notified that they couldn’t procure engines with this code and would use CHD 620 instead. The Navy has been trying to resolve this issue since then, including sending a 23-person team to test the Chinese engines, which were confirmed to meet the original specifications....

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4 hours ago, Coss said:

The contract with China only specified the engine code, not that it must be purchased from Germany.

But the Chinese version of the engine is product code CHD 620 and not MTU 396 as per original contract, so the Chinese are not supplying the product code specified. 

Thailand would be well within its rights to cancel the contract for an unapproved deviation, If the content didn’t say MTU 396 OR EQUIVALENT , but they are doing all that they can, including sending a 23 man delegation to a China for a 200 hour engine test, in real life / Civvy Street you would assign two men to oversea that acceptance test, and out and out living hoping people won’t realise.

It is obvious that not only have brown envelopes been passed round, but the contents have been spent on property, suoercars, Mia Noi’s or whatever and can’t be returned so the top brass are doing all they can to push this through.

Some Background



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