BANGKOK • Thai Deputy Premier Prawit Wongsuwan confirmed yesterday that Thailand will buy three Chinese-built submarines for US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion).
The Thai navy's proposal to procure the three Yuan-class S26T submarines from China has been on hold since last year, awaiting the consent of the deputy premier, who is also defence minister.
Now that General Prawit has given the nod, the navy will budget some US$333 million to buy the first submarine next year, with the purchase of the two others to follow over the next few years.
It will make payments under a 10-year instalment plan.
The Yuan-class S26T submarine is a derivative, export version of the Yuan-class 039A sub deployed by the Chinese navy and is fitted with air-independent propulsion as an auxiliary system to a regular diesel-electric power engine.
Thailand has been mulling over the purchase of submarines since the 1990s, with Germany and South Korea as possible suppliers, though deals have never been concluded.
Experts say Thailand's quest for submarines makes strategic sense, given the tense situation in the South China Sea.