Last week, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) added five new patrol vessels to its fleet from a local shipyard. The vessels are yet another addition to Thailand’s capabilities as the Southeast Asian state looks to boost its ability to address a wide array of challenges amid significant constraints.
As part of an ongoing effort to replace some of its older vessels and modernize its capabilities, the RTN has already had several patrol vessels coming in from local shipyard Marsun Company Limited over the years, including M58 large patrol boats and smaller M21-class patrol boats.
As I have noted before in these pages, the 21.4 meter long M21-class patrol boats, per the company’s specifications, boast top speeds in excess of 30 knots, a range of 350 nautical miles, and an endurance of 24 hours. They can accommodate nine crew members and are armed with one bow-mounted Denel GI-2 20 mm gun as their main weapon, along with a 12.7 mm machine gun with a co-axial 81 mm grenade launcher.
The M21-class patrol boats are generally meant for missions that include law enforcement at sea, preventing infiltration in sea or on shore, protecting commercial and fishing boats, protecting natural resources and coastal areas in gulf and open sea, and ensuring the security of VIPs. For Thailand, Thai officials had previously said that they would be used to perform such functions like patrolling, protection and interception within the RTN’s Coast Guard Squadron in surrounding waters in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
With respect to progress on deliveries thus far, the RTN has had three of the M21-class patrol boats delivered back in 2013, and four more were received back in September 2017. Previously, the intended delivery schedule as well as the number of vessels ordered has had to be postponed and changed for various reasons, including internal political developments in Thailand (See: “The Truth About Thailand’s 2017 Defense Budget Hike”).
On February 15, five more M21-class patrol vessels were launched, with the ceremony presided over by the RTN’s Commander-in-Chief Admiral Naris Pratoomsuwan. According to the RTN, the boats, which have pennant numbers 265 to 269, were launched at Marsun’s facilities in Samut Prakan province. Few additional details were publicly provided about the delivery and specifications beyond this.