The navy would be happy to buy South Korean submarines instead of used German ones as instructed by the defence minister if the South Korean ones were brand new.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has proposed that the navy buy two submarines from South Korea instead of ordering six used ones from Germany, a source at the Defence Ministry said yesterday.
Gen Prawit believed it would be more worthwhile getting the South Korean submarines than six used German Type U-206A class ones. The price tag for the German submarines was estimated at 7.7 billion baht but they may be usable for only another six or seven years. Buying brand-new submarines would be more beneficial although the cost is higher.
The two South Korean submarines could cost over 40 billion baht and require a tied-over budget spanning years.
Gen Prawit proposed diesel-electric submarines of the Type U-209 class built by Hyundai. South Korea bought submarine technology from Germany to make the vessels for global markets.
A submarine of the Type U-209 class has a displacement of 1,200 tonnes and require a crew of 30. It is bigger than the navy's previous choice of the Type U-206A class that displaced 450 tonnes and needed 20 crew.
According to a navy source, the navy would have no problems with the South Korean submarines if they were brand new as they were based on German technology.
Earlier, the navy proposed buying used German submarines because it wanted to keep abreast of submarine technology and catch up with other countries.
Previously, South Korea had tried to sell the navy two submarines priced at 20 billion baht each even though the vessels had been in use for 20 years and had about 15 years of useful life left, the source said.
"If the defence minister proposes the navy buy brand-new submarines developed with German technology, that will be interesting. But if that costs more than 40-50 billion baht, the government may not approve it and the navy will end up without any submarines," said the navy source.
The source said Gen Prawit had discussed the issue with South Korean authorities in South Korea two weeks ago. He would raise the matter at a meeting of the Defence Council this month and ask the cabinet to approve the purchase in principle before the House is dissolved.