Defense Media Network

Royal Thai Navy Wants to Acquire Type 206A German Submarines

Could acquire ex-Bundesmarine Type 206As

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.


Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-1945">

    I wonder what they need them for

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-1971">
    Chuck Oldham (Editor)

    One answer would be that the 206 boats are really pretty small and therefore that much stealthier in confined and shallow waters such as the Andaman Sea, having been built to operate in the Baltic. Strategically, they would be a fleet in being, with an influence out of all proportion to the number of boats, and superior to a fleet of gunboats, with the added capability of a stealthy platform to monitor events off the country’s coasts. Operationally, there would be much to recommend them, with small crews of about 25 (cheaper to train and pay than crews for larger and more modern subs) and respectable levels of quieting and punch.

    But I’m afraid the short answer would be: They need them for the arms race, since their neighbors (Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia) are all buying submarines. And the short answer would probably be the right one.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-2158">

    I cant see Singapore, Malaysia or Thialand starting a war, nor Vietnam

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-2167">
    Chuck Oldham (Editor)

    I’m not suggesting any of them will start a war. What I’m suggesting is that historically, when a country buys a certain military technology, neighboring countries often follow. Arms races don’t inevitably lead to war, and in this case it’s not just the nearest neighbors the submarine buyers are concerned with, but with China. Submarines, operated with intelligence and skill, can punch well above their weight, even as a “fleet in being” acting as a deterrent.