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UPDATED: Royal Thai Navy Corvette Sinks in Gulf of Thailand

Thai corvette HTMS Sukhothai listing starboard after taking on water on Dec. 18, 2022. Royal Thai Navy Photo

This post has been updated with a statement from the Royal Thai Navy correcting the status of sailors from HMS Sukhothai (FS-442).

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) corvette HTMS Sukhothai (FS-442) sank in the Gulf of Thailand at 11:30 p.m. local time on Sunday following a loss of power and subsequent flooding of the ship, according to the service.

The RTN’s official Twitter account posted photos and videos of the incident the same night, stating that Sukhothai was on patrol 20 miles from the port in Bang Saphan district, Central Thailand when strong waves caused water to enter into the electrical systems of the ship which resulted in a loss of power and control for the ship along with water entering the hull resulting in the ship tilting.

The RTN dispatched the frigates HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG-471) and HTMS Kraburi (FFG-457) and landing platform dock HTMS Angthong (LPD-791) to assist Sukhothai though only Kraburi was close enough to reach the scene before the ship sank. Two RTN helicopters were also dispatched to the scene. According to the RTN, strong winds and waves prevented recovery efforts and the ship sank at 11:30 p.m. local time.

Of the 106 sailors of Sukhothai’s crew, 78 were evacuated off the ship to frigate Kraburi, according to the RTN. Twenty-eight of the sailors were still in the water and there were in critical condition, reads a translation of the statement. Earlier statements indicated 110 sailors from the ship had been rescued.

Sukhothai was one of two Ratanakosin-class corvettes built in the United States by the now-closed Tacoma Boatbuilding Company with lead ship HTMS Ratanakosin (FS-441) commissioned in 1986 and Sukhothai commissioned in 1987. The RTN’s other corvettes are the three U.K.-designed and locally built Khamronsin class corvettes which entered service in 1992 and two Tapi class corvettes built by American Shipbuilding Corporation and Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Corporation and commissioned respectively in 1971 and 1973.

Thailand currently has a Type 071E LPD on order with China which has just completed its sea trials in China though its procurement of a single S26T Yuan class submarine from China continues to be stalled owing to the fact that the original contract for the submarine called for the German MTU396 diesel engines to be installed which cannot be fulfilled due to MTU refusing to export the engines to China as it was a military item under a European Union embargo on military items exported to China. The embargo was placed in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacres. China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC), has offered an improved version of its CH620D engine but RTN Chief ADM Choengchai Chomchoengpaet said on November 22 that the RTN wanted the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to guarantee the engine. Thai newspaper The Nation reported that the RTN will make a decision in June 2023 on the program and that the engine must undergo certification by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.