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New Frigate

In September 2012 the Thai government 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 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 procurement of the frigates will supposedly take place in two phases: in the first, one frigate for 15bn Baht ($488m) during the fiscal years of 2012-2016 and during the second phase, another one for 15bn Baht during the fiscal years of 2014-2018. The navy is reportedly looking for ships 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 was 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 had 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 was 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 planned to decommission and replace the F122 frigates with more sophisticated F125 Baden-Wurttemberg-class frigates in 2016.

Navy Chief Admiral Surasak Rounroengrom 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.

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.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of Korea said 23 April 2013 through an inquired disclosure regarding a DW3000H frigate ordered from Thailand on April 22 that Daewoo was chosen as a priority negotiator for a frigate of the Royal Thai Navy and they are in talks on specific contract terms. Daewoo added that it would release another regulatory filing when the contract is finalized or within a month from then. Meanwhile, according to industry sources and a foreign press, Daewoo has been chosen as a preferred bidder for a KRW 500bn ($444m) worth of project to build a new frigate of the Royal Thai navy.

The new frigate will be manufactured to be 3,000-4,000 tonnes, costing around THB 13bn ($453m), and expected to be commissioned in two years. In a bidder for the frigate construction, companies from Spain, Italy and China participated and Daewoo was chosen after having entered the final round of the bid with another Korean shipbuilder.

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