China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) has commenced the construction of a diesel-electric submarine for the Royal Thai Navy in a deal worth $411 million. The keel laying ceremony was held on 30 July 2019 at Wuchang Shipyard, Wuhan in Hubei Province of China.
The Royal Thai Navy signed a contract with CSIC for one S26T diesel-electric submarine – derived from the PLA Navy’s Type 039B, or Yuan-class – in May 2017 and the vessel is expected to be delivered by 2023. The deal is the largest ever defence purchase by Thailand from China and marks growing defence ties between Bangkok and Beijing.
Under the contract China will provide training and support for the Royal Thai Navy’s S26T diesel-electric submarine. A separate follow on contract may be signed for submarine base and maintenance facilities after delivery of the unit.
The S26T has a displacement of 2,600 tonnes, a top speed of 18 knots and be able to remain submerged for up to 20 days. It will also feature the latest acoustics and electronics technologies, and be able to carry 16 torpedoes and missiles, and up to 30 mines.
The S26T would be a major enhancement to Thailand’s naval defence capabilities, and the deal came after neighbouring Vietnam last year completed its purchase of six Kilo-class submarines from Russia, and Myanmar purchased a refurbished Kilo-class (Project 877) diesel-electric submarine from India in 2019. China was also successful in selling 8 S20 submarines to the Pakistan Navy in a deal worth $4 billion. It also sold 2 upgraded Type 035G submarines to the Bangladesh Navy, which entered service in 2018. A follow-on order for four newly built submarines are expected to be signed by the Bangladesh Navy by 2025. Chinese contractors have also been awarded to build a full-fledged submarine base and MRO facility in Bangladesh worth $1.22 billion. The project is expected to be completed by 2021. This contract further indicates the Bangladesh Navy will purchase more submarines from China rather than Russia or other third parties.