The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) signed a contract with China on September 9 for the acquisition of a Type 071E design (Yuzhao-class) landing platform dock (LPD) ship. The agreement, inked with state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC,) involves delivery of the amphibious transport vessel, though the RTN has yet to divulge costs, delivery dates, or onboard systems. The local daily Bangkok Post reported a price tag of $200.7 million, with a construction process unfolding over three years.
The Type 071E is the export variant of the Yuzhao class (Type 071) already operating with China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. The PLAN fields six such vessels, with two more currently under construction. The design involves a 689-foot, 25,000-ton vessel capable of carrying up to 800 troops, plus two landing craft carried on davits mounted on the superstructure. The ship’s stern well dock houses up to four Type 726 air-cushioned landing craft, while its stern helicopter deck offers two helicopter landing spots for up to four of the large helicopters the ship can contain in its hangars.
— IndoPacific News (@IndoPac_Info) September 16, 2019
Beyond the traditional military amphibious role, Thailand uses such amphibious ships for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. The flagship LPD for the Royal Thai Navy is the 462-foot HTMS Angthong, an Endurance class vessel ordered from Singapore’s ST Engineering in November 2008 as a replacement for the service’s U.S.-built landing ship tanker (LST).
While a traditional ally of the U.S., in recent years – partly due to faltering relations between Bangkok and Washington following the latest military coup of 2014 – Thailand has skewed toward greater investment in Chinese-sourced military materiel. On the naval side, it ordered the first of three export versions of the Type 041 (Yuan class in the PLAN) diesel-electric attack submarine on May 5, 2017, from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC).