Upshot of talks held over the last week in Beijing is that no deal is yet agreed but the Royal Thai Navy is making positive noises. Even if the package including the Chinese-made CHD620 engine is accepted, the new submarine will not be delivered until August 2026 at the earliest and this might be extended into 2027 as it will take time for a conclusive decision to be made on the Thai side.
The Royal Thai Navy appears to be readying itself to go ahead with the purchase and construction of the first S26T Yuan class submarine which had been stalled due to contract difficulties over its engine. Following talks in Beijing last week, it appears that a compensation package involving the delivery of a second-hand Chinese vessel as well as other assurances may be enough to get the deal over the line and the sub finally delivered. However, even then, it may well be 2027 before the new submarine is finally handed over to the Royal Thai Navy who only this week held a ceremony to welcome its latest Chinese-made vessel, an amphibious frigate, the HTMS Chang, costing approximately ฿4.5 billion.
There were indications this week that talks between the Royal Thai Navy and Chinese defence officials in Beijing may have borne fruit when news emerged that Chinese authorities are prepared to accept new Thai conditions laid down concerning the manufacture and purchase of the first S26T Yuan Class submarine which was suspended along with an order for two more due to budget allocation issues in Thailand and the inability of the Chinese contractor to provide MTU396 engines built by a division of the Rolls Royce company in Germany.
The problem arose with tightened European sanctions enforcement on the supplies of goods and technology to the Chinese defence sector with growing concern over the buildup of China’s defence forces amid a deterioration in geo-political relations with the West including rising condemnation of its human rights record.
Rolls Royce powered engine embargoed by tighter European Union trade sanctions on China over human rights abuses and its rapid military buildup
Up to that point, it is reported that European or German officials had rated or understood that the supply of the high-quality engines was not being used for defence purposes.
Following a meeting this week with China’s defence minister General Li Shang Fu and the naval chief Admiral Dong Jun, the Chief of the Royal Thai Navy, Admiral Choengchai Chomchoengpaet said China was prepared to meet Thailand’s conditions regarding warranty, compensation and safety if the Thai navy accepts a Chinese made CHD620 engine proposed by the China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co (CSOC) of Shanghai as a substitute for the German engine.
This follows testing of the Chinese substitute in recent weeks inspected by Thai officials in Wuhan China although the new engine will not be fully certified until June.
Thailand sought a Chinese guarantee on the replacement, a Chinese-made CHD620 engine which will be certified in June. Engine used by Pakistan
The first condition put forward by Thailand was that the Chinese navy must stand behind the CHD62o engine and certify its safety to the Royal Thai Navy while compensation is also being demanded from the manufacturer for delays caused in the construction of the vessel and by the inability to provide the German engine as stipulated in the contract.
Thailand’s visiting officials in Beijing have been given assurances regarding the CHD620 engine which is being used by the Pakistani navy and will be used by the Chinese navy in the future.
‘They guaranteed the safety of the engine,’ Admiral Choengchai told the press
Reports that a reconditioned second-hand Chinese submarine may be part of the compensation package offered to the Royal Thai Navy to break the impasse
At this point, there is no definite proposal regarding compensation related to the ฿13.5 billion purchase from China but there are reports that China may be offering a second-hand, reconditioned submarine to the Royal Thai Navy with the details of this consideration being examined by Thai naval officials.
There were strong hints last week that the Royal Thai Navy may be favourably disposed to finalising the transaction of the first S26 Yuan-class submarine on this basis but no formal decision has yet been made.
The next item on the agenda between the two services is the certification of the CHD620 engine in June following which a detailed agreement on the conditions, warranty and maintenance package will be worked out.
Late 2026 at the earliest before the new Yuan class submarine will be handed over to Thailand while further subs appear to be off the agenda for now
Even at this rate, the first S26 Yuan-class submarine may not be ready to hand over to the Royal Thai Navy for 3 years and four months or at the end of 2026.
The navy chief strongly suggested that any decision on a second or third submarine may be postponed while the Chinese will still be contractually bound to provide training to Thai sailors in respect of the new vessel.
On Tuesday last, April 25th, Thailand’s new amphibious frigate built by China at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai docked at the Sattahip Naval Base in Chonburi and Admiral Choengchai was on hand to receive it in a special ceremony held at 3 pm.
Just received amphibious frigate HTMS Chang and submarine is part of a proposal by the Royal Thai Navy to upgrade Thailand’s naval defences by 2036
It is planned to be a support vessel for Thailand’s naval task forces and submarine fleet as part of the navy’s strategic plan from 2017 to 2036 with more such vessels due to be ordered and manufactured in the future.
The vessel is thought to have cost Thailand approximately ฿4.5 billion.
It is 213 metres long and 28 metres wide with a range of 10,000 nautical miles and a top speed of 25 knots. It displaces 20,003 tonnes.
The ship comes with air-cushioned stern walls on its landing platform with the ability to launch and recover conventional shore landing craft.
Its deck can accommodate 60 armoured fighting vehicles and the frigate itself can convey up to 800 troops or marines.