Submarine surprise: RTN dives into new era with Chinese-licensed German engine at 117th celebration

Photo: Wassana Nanuam/Bangkok Post

Royal Thai Navy (RTN) chief Admiral Adung Phan-iam revealed today at an event celebrating the 117th anniversary of the RTN that the Chinese-licensed version of a German submarine engine is already in use and it matches the one desired for the submarine being built for the RTN. He was referring to the CHD620 engine, a licensed Chinese-made version of the MTU396 engine initially specified for the RTN’s ordered submarine.

“Previously, the navy did not make the disclosure as it was waiting for approval from China. China has just permitted its disclosure. China produces the CHD620 engines for Germany.”

Admiral Adung went on to explain that the RTN dockyard representatives witnessed a 200-hour engine test in China and concluded that it could be a suitable substitute.

Admiral Adung also noted that China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) is constructing the Yuan-class S26T submarine. The engine switch does not violate the submarine contract signed by the RTN.

The RTN’s previous plan was to use a Chinese-made engine in the ordered submarine instead of the MTU engine specified in the contract, since Germany does not permit the engine to be installed in Chinese military vessels. Admiral Adung and his predecessor had sought the Defence Ministry’s approval for the engine substitution.

The engine dilemma resulted in the new defence minister, a member of the Pheu Thai Party, suspending the submarine project and suggesting the acquisition of a Chinese frigate instead, reported Bangkok Post.

When asked about CSOC’s slow reaction to the frigate policy, Admiral Adung stated that half of the ordered submarine had already been built. If the submarine project is eventually shelved, the RTN might order a new offshore patrol vessel instead of a frigate, funded through its annual budget, he concluded.

Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang has revealed intentions to authorise the RTN to engage in talks with China aimed at lowering the expenses associated with acquiring a frigate. This move follows the Thai government’s decision to procure a frigate as an alternative to a submarine. Read more HERE.

Thailand News

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.