Submarine purchases could sink over engine debate

PHOTO: Submarine purchase plans stalled over engine debate. (via RawPixel)

Controversy surrounds plans over the plan for three submarine purchases as officials debate which engine is suitable to power the subs. The S26T Yuan-class submarine that Thailand has been in the slow process of purchasing since April was originally planned to be powered by a German engine. Now, factions of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) are debating if a Chinese-made engine is a suitable replacement to proceed with the purchase. There’s a chance that in the debate, the entire purchase contract could be terminated.

The government’s original procurement plan specifically requested the MTU396 diesel engine made in Germany to power each submarine. China Shipbuilding and Offshore International had suggested replacing that engine with a CHD620 engine made in China.

But that engine has never been used on Chinese submarines, according to engineers at the Naval Dockyard. An RTN source said that the dockyard doesn’t want to be blamed if they install the Chinese engine and the submarines later have operational issues.

But, according to RTN chief ADM Choengchai Chomchoengpaet, the study from the technical panel of the Naval Dockyard was not enough to go on. He stressed that if they replaced the German engine in each submarine, it must be with an engine of equal or greater quality.

The RTN intends to follow the original plans to buy the three submarines and enhance its defence capabilities. There’s a submarine procurement committee that has been working since April to facilitate talks to buy the subs and which engine to use. The RTN will examine every possibility in purchases, and the committee has been studying 2020 fiscal year information and working on the delayed purchase.

But, as debate and red tape drag on into their seventh month, the committee needs to reassess. They need to choose an engine, consider the impact of the delays, and set a timeline for the purchase to be complete if they are to move forward with a submarine procurement.

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Thailand News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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