January 2, 2015

Bangladesh, Philippine, Burma and Thailand Submarine Issues

One of China's remaining Type 035 Ming-class conventional submarine soon to be scrapped or sold off to Bangladesh (and other small nations?).

A Russian built Kilo conventional submarine - main users are Russia, India and China. Vietnam is a growing operator (having bought 6).

India feels threatened by the prospect of increasing Chinese submarine proliferation in the Indian Ocean. Such proliferation comes through such means as:

-  Chinese anti-piracy conventional and nuclear propelled subs moving across the Indian Ocean for operations off the Horn of Africa,
-  submarine visits to such ports as Columbo, Sri Lanka, and
-  sale of Chinese subs to such Indian neighbours as Bangladesh (around 2019) and perhaps in future to Burma and Pakistan (see India's "West Coast Worries").

For more than a year there have been reports of a pending sale of obsolescent Chinese Ming-class submarines to Bangladesh. See my article http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/china-selling-two-type-035-ming-class.html of December 24, 2013. It is highly likely that, after expected delivery of the Mings in 2019, part of a Bangladesh Ming crew and on-shore maintainers would be Chinese for a transition period. This would cause a range of anxieties in India.

In late 2014 Indian intelligence and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs have pushed the possibility (or for India a hope) that Bangladesh might buy Russian submarines instead.

It is unclear whether these "Russian" Submarines would be:
- new build Kilos (surely too expensive for Bangladesh without credit-finance)
- used Kilos from Russia (cheaper but probably unreliable with a short remaining service life) or
- ex-Indian Kilos (cheaper but probably unreliable with a short remaining service life).

Two nations that probably will not buy submarines in the short to medium term are:

- the Philippines (it usually receives low-or-no cost used naval and coastguard vessels) - see http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/the-philippine-navys-submarine-quest/  December 31, 2013

- Thailandhttp://thediplomat.com/2015/01/thailand-eyes-submarine-fleet/, January 4, 2015,
  Pete's Comment: If Thailand bought used Ming subs from China Thailand might receive them in 2019 - depending on Chinese modifications. Used Kilos are harder to estimate. If Thailand prefered 2 or 3 new submarines costs would be much higher and involve:
- significant lead times for negotiating, ordering and building submarines - generally around 6 years for a new customer like Thailand
- in the case of South Korea as a supplier a backlog of pre-existing orders might perhaps cause delays. This may mean a minimum delivery year of 2020 for Thailand to receive the first sub then add 3 years for commissioning (tests, trials and training) the sub into the Thai Navy ie. 2023.


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