According to Adm. Yuttana Phagpolngam, senior adviser for the Royal Thai Navy (RTN), Thailand is looking closely at acquiring a submarine force, and is specifically interested in former German navy (Bundesmarine) Type 206A submarines that have become available.
In response to questions about the idea, Phagpolngam told delegates at the IQPC OPV Asia Pacific 2011 conference in Singapore that the idea is being closely reviewed. “Yes, we would like to have submarines. We have to learn to operate with submarines, and that can also help us improve our anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.”
“We are aware that naval warfare has three dimensions of air, surface and subsurface. We’ve maintained an anti-submarine warfare capability for some time,” Phagpolngam says. “We’ve relied on the U.S. Navy to make submarines available to us to conduct ASW training.”
However, Phagpolngam says, the U.S. submarines are getting larger and are not always suitable or available to be used for tracking exercises in the Gulf of Thailand. The Gulf of Thailand is quite shallow, Phagpolngam says, while the Andaman Sea on Thailand’s west coast is quite deep.
“We use simulators, but it can’t replace everything in real life,” Phagpolngam says.
“We haven’t located the budget for this, but the offer from the Germans is quite interesting.”
An unexpected opportunity arose with the decommissioning of several Bundesmarine Type 206A submarines which are available. While the RTN had not planned or budgeted for their acquisition, Phagpolngam says it is worth looking closely at making an extraordinary request for funding. “We haven’t located the budget for this, but the offer from the Germans is quite interesting.”
Phagpolngam says the RTN has prepared an ad hoc budget request. “There is not a 100 percent chance we will get the funding.”
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has approved a $257 million purchase of former German navy Type 206As, but the proposed purchase, which would also mean building up basing infrastructure as well as maintaining two crews per submarine, has caused controversy in some quarters.
The request requires cabinet approval, Phagpolngam says.
Phagpolngam says that submarines are not new to the RTN, as the navy had a force of four boats before World War II.