Navy chief will drop his submarine fund request

Navy chief will drop his submarine fund request

Navy chief Adm Somprasong Nilsamai will drop a funding request for two more Yuan-class S26T submarines under the 2023 fiscal budget because of the economic impact of Covid-19.

It will be the first time the navy has declined to ask for funding for its submarine procurement project.

Previously, it has been forced to back down after opposition.

In the past procurement has been put on hold because requests for funding were rejected by parliament or the prime minister, a navy source said.

With the emerging Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly, Adm Somprasong believes no one would agree with the navy pressing ahead with the submarine procurement now, the navy source said.

According to the source, the navy budget risks being slashed, because the funding the navy is seeking for the 2023 fiscal year, which starts on Oct 1, is already high.

Other naval units will also consequently suffer from a likely budget cut.

Earlier, responding to media reports that he would not request the funds, Adm Somprasong said yesterday he was still weighing up the matter.

An assessment was still under way, he said, but admitted there were a lot of limitations that needed to be taken into account as a decision on the matter is made.

"Since we already have the first submarine, the second and the third will have to follow. But it remains to be seen as to when," he said.

"If delivery of the first submarine is delayed, the second and third will most likely be, too."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has yet to comment further about the submarine procurement budget this fiscal year, Adm Somprasong said.

The government on May 4, 2017, signed a government-to-government contract to buy the first Yuan Class S26T at a cost of 13.5 billion baht from China, which was initially due to be delivered by late 2023.

Citing several problems associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, China recently put back delivery of this submarine to Thailand till April 2024, the source said.

The navy later requested full funding for two more submarines in the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, which were both objected to by the opposition.

The funding was eventually suspended twice by Gen Prayut.

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