14 April 2015
Some navy sources, however, were not opposed to Chinese submarines, saying they could be on a par with European ones if they are properly developed and built. (photo : Militaryphotos)
Elements within the navy are expressing doubts over a proposal to purchase Chinese submarines.
The concerns come as Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is set to discuss the possibility of a purchase deal with his Chinese counterpart during his three-day visit to China that began yesterday.
Speaking at an event to mark the 128th anniversary of the Defence Ministry prior to leaving for China on Wednesday, Gen Prawit said he would discuss a plan to buy two submarines for 36 billion baht with his Chinese counterpart during his visit.
However, several navy sources said they do not want the Chinese submarines after raising concerns over their reliability and the fact that China has little or no track record in building submarines.
They said 36 billion baht may have to be spent on vessels which could be too risky to use under water. Long-term maintenance costs of the submarines are another concern, they said.
For whatever reasons the navy wants to buy submarines, the key concern is that submarines, like aircraft, require maintenance and confidence in their reliability, a navy source said.
If maintenance is not comprehensive or there is no confidence in the craft, submariners will not venture with their vessels under water, the source said.
The sources said the navy may use the submarines for the first four or five years and after that they will not go under water again.
They said European vessels would be more worthwhile, adding the price tags on European and Chinese vessels are not that different.
Some navy sources, however, were not opposed to Chinese submarines, saying they could be on a par with European ones if they are properly developed and built.
The sources said the navy has yet to make decision on where it should buy submarines from.
The navy is looking at Chinese submarines, German U-boats and subs from South Korea, they said.
Gen Prawit says the purchase of submarines would require money from five fiscal budgets, adding the Defence Ministry has agreed in principle to the purchase.
Speaking about the visit to China, Gen Prawit said talks will also touch upon joint military training between the two countries.
Joining him on the trip to China were defence permanent secretary Gen Sirichai Distakul, Supreme Commander Gen Worapong Sanganetra, the armed forces chiefs, and Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.