Home' Work Boat World : December 2015 Contents New OPV, frigates and subs
on the horizon for Thailand
With TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE
The last decade has seen the profile of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN)
rise, with increased involvement by the service in both
international anti-piracy operations, and disaster relief efforts.
Nearer home, RTN fishery protection and anti-narcotics activity
continues to ratchet up, while the task of protecting Thailand’s
offshore resources is growing in importance.
Thailand’s defence priorities, traditionally focused on its land
forces, are therefore shifting to give greater emphasis to the RTN.
RTN offshore security capabilities are to be boosted by the
construction of an additional offshore patrol vessel (OPV). The new
ship, to be constructed at a cost of US$80 million, at the Mahidol
dockyard, will be based upon the 2,000-tonne ‘Krabi’, which was
built in Thailand two years ago to a modified River-class design from
Main armament of the diesel-powered, 24-knot warship is likely to
be an OTO Melara 76-millimetre gun, and there will reportedly be a
flight deck for a medium-sized helicopter. Surveillance radar and a
combat information system will be fitted.
The upgrading of the RTN is not confined to its OPV inventory,
though, as its fleet of larger surface warships, the core of which is the
only operational aircraft carrier in a Southeast Asian naval force, is
also to be augmented.
Already under construction at Mahidol is the first of a projected
two South Korean designed 3,700-tonne DW 3000F stealth frigates.
Due in service in 2018, this ship will be equipped with vertically
launched air defence and anti-submarine missiles, as well as anti-
submarine torpedoes, a 76-millimetre gun and a Phalanx close-in
An outfit of modern sensors will include advanced Atlas
Elektronik towed and bow sonars.
Although the RTN has a relatively well balanced and modern
surface fleet, the service has been lagging behind in Asia’s
undersea naval arms race. However, this seems set to change, as
long-drawn out negotiations with China over a proposed US$988
million purchase of three “Yuan” diesel electric submarines have
The 3,600-tonne, 38-metre Yuan boats are a successful design.
They feature air-independent propulsion, which enables stealthy,
high speed sub-surface operations. Six bow tubes are capable of
launching both torpedoes, and YJ-8X anti-shipping cruise missiles.
Bangkok wants the subs, which are capable of sustained littoral, and
deep-sea operations, to boost RTN patrol and surveillance around
offshore energy assets in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand
The Thais in the past operated a number of Japanese-built
submarines, but the last of these craft was decommissioned in 1951.
Some RTN officers have already undergone some submarine training
abroad, but the service faces a steep learning curve as it seeks to get
back into the underwater warfare business.
Interim solution for Canada’s RAS dilemma
In 2014 the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) replenishment at sea
(RAS) ships ‘Protecteur’ and ‘Preserver’ were, for financial reasons,
prematurely withdrawn from service. This move dealt a hammer
blow to the blue water naval capabilities of Canada, a nation with
many overseas responsibilities, including multi-national maritime
security, and natural disaster response operations.
Since the demise of these veteran ships, the RCN has been unable
to deploy self-sufficient task groups in support of such commitments.
The long-term plan is for the RCN to commission a pair of
Canadian-built versions of the 20,240-tonne German Berlin-class RAS
vessels. The first of these is provisionally due to enter service in 2019.
However, given Canada’s abysmal record of naval procurement, and
the recent change of government in Ottawa, many Canadians are
sceptical that this schedule will be met, and there are even doubts
that the vessels will ever be constructed.
In the meantime, the RCN has embarked upon a programme of
interim measures , which are intended to ensu re that Canadian
warships on long range deployments continue to have some
The Chilean Navy’s 42,000-tonne, 1980s vintage ex-US Military
Sealift Command RAS tanker ‘Almirante Mott’ has been hired by the
RCN for 40 sea days a year, to support its warship operations in the
Pacific. Furthermore, negotiations with Madrid are in hand to hire a
Royal Spanish Navy tanker, under a similar arrangement, in order to
provide afloat support for RCN fleet units operating in the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, Project Resolve, intended to give the RCN a medium
term, commercially-supplied, in-house RAS capability, is underway.
The Canadian Government has purchased the 24,000-tonne
container ship ‘Asterix’, built in Germany in 2010, and this ship is
now being converted by Chantier Davie in Quebec into a dedicated
RAS vessel. Specifications, intended to ensure that the converted
vessel will be capable of supplying a level of RAS service at least equal
to that provided by one of the retired ships, include:
• Port and starboard positions for NATO standard self-tensioning
fuel replenishment equipment.
• Two forward cranes for transferring container loads of dry stores.
• A hospital facility optimised for disaster relief operations.
• Large flight deck and double hangar for helicopters of up to
• A dedicated flying control position.
The ship is due to enter service in 2017, and will be fully
compliant with all current international regulations governing the
operation ships which carry oil fuel products. It will be chartered
from Chantier Davie, who will also arrange for the provision of a
Canadian civilian crew.
As it lacks both armament and naval standard damage control
capabilities, the vessel will not be able to give close support to
Canadian warships operating in high threat zones, and will therefore
not offer the versatility of a fully equipped, RCN-manned RAS asset.
Hopefully, though, the converted ship will at least enable the RCN to
continue to meet its international maritime security commitments.
WORK BOAT WORLD December 2015
Artist’s impression of ‘Asterix’ after conversion
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