The problem with buying three obsolete Chinese submarines is finding a crew to man them. However, North Korea still uses them, so a crew might be found from there.
What they are going to be used for is a bit more problematic. These days submarines tend to carry nuclear missiles. For example, Britain is spending 205 Billion Pounds to build four Trident submarines. These will hide under the polar ice caps (before they melt). When the Russian’s launch a nuclear strike against Britain the subs will be safe, then they can come out and fire at Russia. This will teach the Russians a severe lesson, so they will not do it again. This strategy will not work with ground based nuclear missiles because the Russians could take them out in a first strike. Britain does not have ground based nuclear missiles so the Russians will just have to nuke Britain’s cities instead.
Submarines with nuclear missiles make a lot of sense, but what about other submarines? There are hunter killers, these are nuclear powered but do not have nuclear missiles. Their job is to hunt subs with nuclear missiles and kill them before they can get out from under the melting polar cap. However, Thailand’s S26T submarines will not be nuclear powered. Nobody knows exactly what a S26T is, but their diesel engines are hardly suitable for chasing down a nuclear sub. They can, however, be used against surface warships such as those in the US Seventh Fleet. Yes, the Thais will be proud when their three plucky diesels venture out to take on the might of the American Navy. Unfortunately, the waters of the Gulf of Thailand are clear and shallow, which means the Thai subs will be spotted and tracked by satellite as soon as they leave port. It would be a bit like attacking a bulldozer with a rolled up newspaper and telling the dozer crew three days in advance. Of course, if the subs have North Korean crews this is very likely to happen.
Historically, submarines have been used to attack merchant shipping rather than warships. This is what the Germans did in the first and second world wars. Here Thailand’s subs could be very useful. Due to bilateral trade agreements Thailand can not impose restrictions on imports without having its own exports reduced. However, Thailand’s subs could sneak out into the South China Sea, hide under one of the numerous floating islands of garbage, and torpedo foreign merchantmen sending exports to Thailand. This would make enormous reductions in imports from countries like China (ironically) without hurting Thailand’s exports. The resulting improvement in the Balance of Trade would cover the submarine purchase price of USD $1.02 billion within a few years.
The other factor is that in the event of a Red Shirt uprising the three submarines would be capable of accommodating Thailand’s Cabinet and all the military leaders as well as storing Thailand’s gold reserves. The S26T has a considerable range and would have no problem reaching Paraguay where the Thai Cabinet would be made at home by Hitler’s descendants.
The story from Asia One (24 march):
Thailand to get 3 Chinese submarines at the price for 2
It's finally Chinese submarines for Thailand. But the government would pay for only two as the third one was "a free gift", Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed at his weekly press briefing yesterday.
The announcement by the PM ends a wait of over two decades for the Navy. Thailand had four submarines in 1937, the first country in ASEAN to have submarines and only the second in Asia.
Made in Japan, they became damaged over time and were beyond repair.
Following the defeat of Japan in World War II, the submarines were discharged in 1951.
Since then, Thailand has never had any submarines.
The Thai Navy revived its quest for some submarines to be deployed in the Thai waters, especially in the Gulf of Thailand, in 1995.
Several western countries - Germany, Sweden, France - and Russia were eager to offer new submarines at good prices, but the Navy's dream was hampered by budget shortage and political problems.
In 2010, the Navy made another try, eyeing six submarines from Germany, though they were second hand.
The Navy then readjusted the plan, eyeing one brand new submarine from either Germany or South Korea, but even that bid was suspended.
It was only when the current military government took power in 2014 that the Navy felt itself closer to realising its dream.
The three submarines are Yuan Class S26 T, which have been developed exclusively for Thailand based on China's Yuan Class Type 039 A.
They would be nearly 78 metres long and 9 metres wide, equipped with the latest technology AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system, that would allow them to dive consecutively up to 21 days without surfacing.
Normal nuclear-based submarines can dive around seven to 10 days.
The deal would cost Thailand Bt3.6 billion (S$145.6 million).
Sensing the criticism of the Navy's obsession with acquiring submarines, Prayut urged the public to understand why the country needed the subs, and that too from China.
"The submarines from China are the cheapest with the quality relatively acceptable. It has also offered services after purchase, something extra that we have received. I asked my Deputy Prime Minister Prawit [Wongsuwan], and he is ready for any examination of their worthiness.
"We are not rich, and we don't have much money to spend [on them]. We cannot build them on our own so we have to buy them from others," said Prayut.