Navy to consult OAG on engine change
The Royal Thai Navy still wants to buy a submarine from China but will consult the Office of the Attorney General on whether the original contract can be amended, Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm Adung Phan-iam said on Monday.
In a lengthy interview with the press during which he defended the RTN’s plan to acquire submarines, Adung said the original contract stated that the first submarine to be bought from China would be fitted with the German-made MTU 396 diesel engine.
Adung said the contract was signed during the tenure of a previous Navy chief at a time when China was still licensed to make MTU 396 engines for Germany and the shipbuilder was thus confident it could fit the engine in the submarine for the RTN.
However, the German government later banned the use of German engines for military purposes. Adung explained that the Chinese government had tried to resolve the issue but it was now clear that the engine could not be used on the submarine to be supplied to the RTN.
As a result, Adung said the RTN was now consulting with the Attorney General’s Office on whether the contract could be changed to state that the submarine would be fitted with a Chinese-made engine instead.
The OAG had also been asked who would have the authority to approve the change to the contract, the Navy chief added, noting that the project to acquire four subs to boost security in the sea was initiated in 2015 and the contract was signed in 2017.
He said Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang earlier suggested the replacement of the submarine with an anti-submarine frigate as it was clear that a German engine could not be acquired in line with the initial plan.
However, Adung said, the RTN realised it would be a lengthy process to change from a submarine to a frigate and, in any case, the shipbuilder had almost completed work on the submarine destined for Thailand.
He added that a committee of naval officers had tested the quality of the Chinese engine for 200 hours and did not find any issues. The engine was developed based on technologies licensed by the owner of the MTU 396 engine.