In a new twist to Thailand's quest to acquire a Chinese submarine, its Navy chief, Adm Adung Phan-iam has said that the offered Chinese engine, CHD620 is actually a licenced-manufactured version of the German MTU396 engine.
Germany had earlier refused to give the MTU 396 powerplant as part of the Chinese submarine sale to Thailand.
Speaking at an event commemorating the 117th anniversary of the Royal Thai Navy, Admiral AdmA dung revealed that China has recently granted approval for the release of detailed information about the engine intended for the Yuan-class 226T submarine being constructed by China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) for the Thai Navy.
Adm Adung specified that the engine in question is the CHD620, essentially a licensed Chinese version of the MTU396 engine initially designated for the Navy's ordered submarine. He clarified that China obtained a license from Germany's MTU to manufacture the engine, assigning it the designation CHD620. Notably, this alteration in the choice of engine does not violate the terms of the submarine contract, as confirmed by the admiral.
The disclosure of this information was delayed as the navy awaited China's approval. Adm Adung emphasized that China had recently permitted the disclosure, highlighting that the CHD620 engines were produced for Germany.
“Previously, the navy did not make the disclosure as it was waiting for approval from China. China has just permitted its disclosure, China produced the CHD620 engines for Germany,” Adm Adung said.
Representatives from the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard observed a 200-hour engine test in China and concluded that it could serve as a suitable substitute, he added.
Adm Adung revealed that both he and his predecessor had endeavored to persuade the Defense Ministry to endorse the engine substitution. This stemmed from the navy's previous plan to use a Chinese-made engine in the ordered submarine, deviating from the MTU engine specified in the contract. This deviation was prompted by Germany's prohibition on installing the engine in Chinese military vessels.
The engine-related challenges led the new defense minister, representing the Phew Thai Party, to suspend the submarine project and advocate for the acquisition of a Chinese frigate instead. When questioned about CSOC's delayed response to the frigate policy, Adm Adung noted that half of the ordered submarine had already been constructed.
Looking ahead, Adm Adung mentioned that if the submarine project faces shelving, the navy may consider ordering a new offshore patrol vessel in lieu of a frigate. He assured that the navy's annual budget would fund the procurement.
Derived from the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN) Type 039B Yuan-class submarine, the S26T is anticipated to have a displacement of approximately 2,600 tons, boasting a maximum speed of 18 knots and a submerged endurance lasting up to 20 days. Its weaponry includes a capacity for up to 16 torpedoes and as many as 30 mines.