The Navy needs to buy second-hand German submarines as other countries in the region could threaten Thailand with their fleets during a conflict, a military source said yesterday.
The plan to purchase the dated submarines, which have long been on the Navy's wish list, comes after the Air Force and the Army upgraded their arsenals with new equipment. The Air Force is now flying Gripen jet fighters from Sweden and the Army has Ukrainian BTR-3EI armoured vehicles and Russian MI-17 helicopters at its disposal, the source said.
The Navy anticipates heightened security risks from countries in the region, such as Malaysia, Singapore and China, the source said.
The Navy needs to spend |Bt1.8 billion to buy the six used |submarines and Bt5 billion for repair and spare parts, the source said, adding the subs would be good for 10 more years after refurbishment.
The Type 206A submarines will be acquired from the German navy in a government-to-government deal.
They run on diesel engines and electric motors with a crew of 22. They are designed for anti-surface and anti-submarine, mine-laying and reconnaissance missions and can be armed with eight torpedoes and 24 mines.
The subs are in the process of decommissioning after serving for more than 30 years.
The 35-year-old vessels were due for retirement from 2011-2015, but the German navy brought the dates forward to save on operating costs, according to Jane's defence magazine.
According to a senior Navy officer, German navy officials visited Thailand late last year and offered to sell the submarines.
He told Jane's that the German submarines had been selected ahead of the Type 209s and Type 039s offered by South Korea and China, respectively.
The Navy also held discussions with Swedish shipbuilder Kockums about the availability of Gotland-class submarines, according to the magazine.
The Navy's proposal to buy new submarines had been rejected by previous governments due to the expensive prices. Those from leading weapons-manufacturing countries like Germany, Sweden, Russia and France command about Bt30 billion each.