12 April 2009

Thailand Takes East Asia Into The Carrier Age

31 Januari 1996

HTMS Chakri Naruebet, the Royal Thai Navy's offshore patrol helicopter carrier was launched by Spanish naval shipbuilder EmpresaNacional Bazan on 20 January at the company's main Ferrol shipyard. The ceremony, attended by thousands of people including Queen Sirikit of Thailand and Queen Sofia of Spain and the commanders-in-chief of the Spanish and Thai navies, was the latest milestone in the RTN's fleet modernization programme.

HTMS Chakri Naruebet of the Royal Thailand Navy (photo : Forummarine)

Hangar configuration of HTMS Chakri Naruebet (photo : Skyscrapercity)

In recent years, the RTN has ordered new frigates and a full-size auxiliary oil replenishment (AOR) tanker from China; secondhand frigates, new-build S-70B Seahawk helicopters and two squadrons of A-7E Corsair strike fighters from the USA; and has started a competition for two or three submarines.

A-7 Corsair of the Royal Thai Navy (photo : Jetphotos)
S-70 of the Royal Thai Navy (photo : Jetphotos)

When Bazan delivers Chakri Naruebet (Thai for `In honour of the House of Chakri') on 27 March 1997, the ship will be fully equipped to conduct flight operations and, with a comprehensive communications suite, to act as the RTN flagship. Initially, it is to serve primarily as a disaster relief and rescue co-ordination platform - as the carrier's pennant number `911' seems to suggest. According to an RTN statement, having Chakri Naruebet in service at the time of the recent typhoon `Gay' would have been"extremely valuable", with the ship serving "as a floating platform for the RTN and other relief organizations' helicopters, making assistance more prompt and effective".

To fight a war however, the 182.6 m-long ship would need to be equipped with a number of C{2} and self-defence enhancements before it could be responsibly sent into a high-threat zone. Chakri Naruebet's potential as a fighting ship, however, is impressive for its 11,500 tonne size.

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