Last week, Thailand commissioned another one of its planned offshore patrol vessels. The development highlighted the current status of this aspect of Thailand’s naval capabilities as the Southeast Asian state looks to boost its ability to address a wide array of challenges in the maritime domain.
As I have observed previously in these pages, Thailand has been looking to boost its naval capabilities as part of its ongoing efforts to address a series of maritime challenges in surrounding waters in the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, and beyond. One of the areas that the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has been looking to develop is offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), and officials have signaled several more being in the pipeline despite wider defense challenges that the Southeast Asian state continues to face under a new government that took office following elections finally held earlier this year.
Among the partnerships of note has been an agreement between British defense firm BAE Systems and Thai shipbuilder Bangkok Dock for OPVs. The RTN had accepted the first OPV, HTMS Krabi, back in 2013, and a contract had been inked for the building of a second one in 2016.
Late last month, this aspect of Thailand’s naval capabilities was in the headlines again with the commissioning of a new OPV. The RTN commissioned its second Krabi-class missile-capable OPV, the HTMS Prachuap Khiri Khan (552), in a commissioning ceremony.
Per a statement by the RTN posted on social media, the ship, HTMS Prachuap Khiri Khan (552), was inducted in a commissioning ceremony at Sattahip, Chonburi, on September 27. The move marked yet another milestone in the development of the HTMS Prachuap Khiri Khan, which, per previous details disclosed by the RTN, has a length of around 90.5 meters, a top speed of 25 knots, a range of 3,5000 nautical miles, and is equipped with combat, navigation, and communications equipment provided by Thales. The vessel was laid down in June 2017, took to the water in August 2018, and was launched in August 2019.
Though the commissioning of the OPV constitutes another advance, it is still unclear how it will be utilized by the RTN and how it will factor into broader Thai maritime modernization more generally. Previous indications were that it would be used for a range of functions, including routine patrols, border control, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and natural resource protection. As we hear more about developments on this front and see more investments from Thailand, that question and more will continue to be asked.