Harried carrier | 16.05.05

Reading an article about Japan as a latent superpower, I came across this:

These [Japanese] “destroyers” are actually in the same weight class of the European “Harrier carriers” (the British Invincibles, the Italian Garibaldi, the Spanish Principe de Asturias, and the Thai Chakri Narubet-classes).

Hmmm, I’d heard of HTMS Chakri Naruebet before, in the same way I’d heard of the Thai rock band Moderndog. That is to say, I didn’t know anything about it and never thought anyone outside Thailand should do so, let alone use it as a benchmark against the Japanese navy.

Intrigued, I set out to find more information about this Thai carrier, which turned out to be the pride of the Royal Thai Navy. The problem is, however, there isn’t much else to be proud of:

Because of the ships capabilities and size it the most auspicious ship of the Royal Thai Navy. But the lack of funding has restricted its operations and as a result, it was not deployed to support the UN mission in East Timor.

The Thai navy lacks submarines for escort duty (a US$800 million plan to buy three submarines was shelved in May 1995, probably for financial reasons).

To paraphrase Rumsfeld: you go to war with the Navy you have, which doesn’t include the best ship you’ll ever have.

Confusing, to be sure. But underfunding isn’t the Navy’s only problem:

They (Thailand) have the aircraft carrier, aircraft and helicopters, but not the expertise.

With neither funding nor expertise, what do you do with the ship then?

The Thai carrier is only on duty 2 days a week. It’s a floating tourist spot otherwise.

Go Navy! Perhaps one day we’ll have earned enough from the admission fees to buy escort subs!

Yet, even as a tourist attraction that it is, the presence of the Chakri Naruebet is already being felt:

Thailand, a country with no history of aircraft carrier operations, curiously joined the carrier club in 1997 […] Although, it will take Thailand’s navy some time to become fully conversant in carrier operations, the deployment of a Thai aircraft carrier certainly begs the question as to how long China and Japan are willing to play second fiddle to a small state like Thailand, and how long it will take those two powers to deploy their own aircraft carriers?

Or alternatively: why is Thailand playing first fiddle to large states like China and Japan and when will the Thai military quit fooling around with extravagant toys and start training and equipping its personnel properly?

Ignorance isn’t bliss. But after this little research on the Chakri Naruebet, I can see there may be exceptions. I won’t start looking into Moderndog anytime soon.

PS With such a lame military, my only hope is that the enemy is lamer.

PPS Well, at least there’s Cobra Gold. This year Thai soldiers beat American marines… at soccer.

02:06 ▪ politics, miscellanea

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