Surface Forces: Thailand Builds Its Own

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October 13, 2016: Thailand, like many of its neighbors has created a local warship building capability. This trend began in the 1990s and Thailand has been at it since then with several new classes of ships. The latest (September) type of ship put into service is the first of four M58 type patrol boats. These were built at a shipyard outside Bangkok as part of a program to replace an aging fleet of patrol vessels built in the 1990s and earlier. The 520 ton M58 type ship cost about $30 million each and is also offered to export customers by the Thai builder. The M58s have a top speed of 41 kilometers an hour and can stay at sea for about seven days at a time. The crew of 53 operates the radars and other sensors 24/7 as well as a 76mm cannon, a 30mm autocannon and two 12.7mm machine-guns.

Thailand is also building larger warships. In January 2016 Thailand ordered a 2,500 ton River class OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) from a Thai shipyard. This will be delivered by 2019. Thailand already has one of these in service. It was built in a British shipyard and delivered in 2015. The first River class OPV performed so well that Thailand now plans to build as many as six. These ships cost about $80 million each. The River class OPVs are a British design built in Thailand under license and with some foreign technical assistance. This is seen as a way to improve Thailand’s shipbuilding capability. The Thais worked with British shipbuilder BAE to develop modified version of the original River class ships. Britain was the first user of these ships and four entered service between 2002 and 2006.

River class OPVs are corvette size ships that are optimized for patrolling coastal waters and protect fishing grounds and offshore oil fields. These are 90.5 meter (281 foot) long ships displacing 2,500 tons. They carry a crew of 36 (with accommodations for up to 70) and are armed with one 30mm remotely controlled autocannon or a 76mm gun plus 2 smaller 25mm or 30mm autocannon (one on each side). Buyers can equip these ships with a wide variety of sensors and electronics and install all sorts of options. There is a landing deck in the rear for a helicopter (of up to 7 tons) or six 20 foot cargo containers (containing supplies or equipment). Top speed is 45 kilometers an hour and cruising speed is 12 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about 5 weeks. 2 speedboats are usually carried, along with a 16 ton crane. The ship can be rigged to carry 50 infantry. Brazil bought 3 of these OPVs from Britain, with the option to build 5 more in Brazil.

 


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