By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Thai government has recently approved the purchase of two medium-sized frigates with a budget of 1 billion U.S. dollars after denying allegation about the country's navy persistent request for submarines.
The ships will beef up the capability of the Thai maritime force in patrolling the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, the navy said.
Navy Chief Admiral Surasak Rounroengrom has officially denied media reports that they prefer frigates made in China than those made in Germany.
The admiral said that the navy is still waiting for studies and suggestions by an ad hoc procurement committee to decide where these frigates should be procured.
The navy, which had been earlier reported to be interested in buying a fleet of four second-hand U-206A submarines from Germany, will meticulously consider the German-made frigates but it is not also discounting the China option, a high-ranking navy officer said.
The 1-billion-US dollar fund, approved by the Yingluck Cabinet for the procurement of the frigates, is to be spent for a 10-year period, beginning from current fiscal year. The two frigates are unlikely be procured at the same time, the navy officer said.
The navy is reportedly looking for boats with an approximate 4, 000-ton displacement, which might be either brand-new or secondhand, depending on specifications and preferences of the commanding admirals.
The two frigates to be acquired will replace two US-made, Knox- class frigates, namely HTMS Phutthayodfa Chulalok and HTMS Phutthalertla Napalai, both scheduled to be decommissioned in 2015, Defense Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said.
The two frigates would be capable of engaging in three possible combat scenarios with simultaneous maneuverability: anti-aircraft, anti-surface ship and anti-submarine warfare.
One possible candidate is China's Type 054A "Jiangkai II" frigates, featuring 4,000-ton displacement, 30-knot speed, 8,000- nautical mile maneuverable range. The Chinese ships cost about 255 million U.S. dollars each.
The Thai navy now has four secondhand Type 053T "Jianghu" frigates, built in China, which have 2,400-ton displacement, 32- knot speed and 4,000-nautical mile range.The Thai navy is also considering a German-made, Bremen-class F122 frigate with a 3,700- ton displacement, 30-knot speed and 4,000-nautical mile range.
The German navy has planned to decommission and replace the F122 frigates with more sophisticated F125 Baden-Wurttemberg-class frigates in 2016.
As to the weapon systems to be fitted in the chosen frigates, the Thai navy is said to be interested in Chinese-made C-802A surface-to-surface missiles as well as US-made Harpoon surface-to- surface missiles and US-made Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles. Thailand currently deploys guided missiles acquired from China and the U.S. on its frigates and corvettes.