China already uses a licensed version of a German submarine engine which matches the German engine wanted for the submarine it is building for the Thai navy, navy chief Adm Adung Phan-iam said on Monday.
Speaking at a function marking the 117th anniversary of the Royal Thai Navy, Adm Adung said China had only now approved release of the details of the engine it proposed to put in the Yuan-class S26T submarine that China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) is building for the Thai navy.
It was the CHD620 engine, which was actually a licensed Chinese-made version of the MTU396 engine originally specified for the navy’s ordered submarine, he said.
According to the navy chief, China was licensed by MTU of Germany to produce the engine, and gave it the name CHD620. The change of engine did not breach the submarine contract signed by the navy, according to the admiral.
“Previously, the navy did not make the disclosure as it was waiting for approval from China. China has just permitted its disclosure. China produced the CHD620 engines for Germany,” Adm Adung said.
“Representatives of the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard witnessed the test of the engine in China, which continued for 200 hours and concluded that it can be a substitute,” the navy chief said.
He said he and his predecessor had tried to convince the Defence Ministry to approve the engine substitution.
He was referring to the navy's previous plan to allow use of a Chinese-made engine in the ordered submarine instead of the MTU engine specified in the contract, because Germany does not allow the engine to be installed in Chinese military vessels.
The engine issue led the new defence minister, from the Pheu Thai Party, to shelve the submarine project and recommend the procurement of a Chinese frigate instead.
Asked for a comment on CSOC’s slow response to the frigate policy, Adm Adung said it already built half of the ordered submarine.
The navy chief said that if the submarine project is shelved, the navy may order a new offshore patrol vessel instead of a frigate. The navy funded the procurement through its annual budget, he said.
Navy chief Adm Adung Phan-iam speaks to reporters at Royal Thai Navy headquarters on Monday. (Photo: Wassana Nanuam)