Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister, yesterday said the Yuan Class S26T, the first of three Chinese-manufactured submarines Thailand wishes to buy, will be purchased in accordance with the procurement time frame.
The terms of reference (ToR) will be drafted after receiving approval from the Cabinet, he said.
Gen Prawit said he believed the Royal Thai Navy will submit the purchase proposal to the ministry soon and it will be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval.
It is expected the first vessel would be ready to enter service in six years’ time, sources said.
Gen Prawit’s comment followed criticism the submarine purchase was being dragged out and that a purchase proposal had not been forwarded to the cabinet for approval yet.
If the navy does not obtain the green light for the procurement within the next month, the purchase would be delayed as it would come under next year's fiscal budget, critics said.
Gen Prawit said the navy has secured B13.5 billion to purchase the first boat.
Part of the cost has been included in the Royal Thai Navy's allocation in the 2017 Budget Bill already approved by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), he said.
Further payments will be stretched out over the next seven years. Payment for the other two boats should be completed within 11 years.
Also, the cabinet has acknowledged the project would be going ahead since August last year, he said.
A navy source said the purchase of the Yuan Class S26T, the first of three submarines which the navy intends to acquire at a total cost of 36 billion baht, should be made sometime this year.
All three submarines are expected to be in service within 11 years.
If all goes to plan, Thailand will have its first submarine in service since the early 1950s.
One submarine will be stationed in the Gulf of Thailand, another in the Andaman Sea, while the third will replace one of the other two vessels that are undergoing maintenance.
According to the navy, procurement of the first submarine will be conducted in a government-to-government deal after the cabinet gives its final approval.
The Chinese S26T craft has a submerged displacement of 2,600 tonnes and is equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that allows the submarine to stay under water for up to three weeks at a time, according to the navy.
This first submarine will cost considerably more than the other two -- which will be purchased later -- because the 13.5 billion baht will also cover weapon system costs, training courses for the crews, visits by Chinese personnel and various maintenance costs.
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