HTMS Chakri Naruebet

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A small aircraft carrier with an upturned bow underway in calm seas. The number "911" is painted on the side, and an AV-8S aircraft and S-70 helicopter are sitting on the flight deck.
HTMS Chakri Naruebet underway in the South China Sea in early 2001
Career (Thailand)
Name: HTMS Chakri Naruebet
Namesake: "In honour of the Chakri Dynasty"
Ordered: 27 March 1992
Builder: Bazán, Ferrol, Spain
Cost: US$336 million
Laid down: 12 July 1994
Launched: 20 January 1996
Commissioned: 27 March 1997
Homeport: Sattahip
Motto: Rule The Sky, Rule The Sea, Chakri Naruebet. (ครองเวหา ครองนที จักรีนฤเบศร)
Status: Operational as of 2012
Badge: HTMS Chakri Narubet badge.svg
General characteristics
Type: V/STOL carrier
Displacement: 11,486 tons full load
Length: 182.65 m (599.2 ft) (overall)
174.1 m (571 ft) (flight deck)
164.1 metres (538 ft) (between perpendiculars)
Beam: 22.5 m (74 ft) (waterline)
30.5 m (100 ft) maximum
Draught: 6.12 m (20.1 ft)
Propulsion: 2 x GE LM2500 gas turbines providing 22,125 shp (16,499 kW)
2 x Bazán-MTU 16V1163 TB83 diesel engines providing 5,600 bhp (4,200 kW)
2 x shafts with 5-bladed propellers
Speed: 25.5 knots (47.2 km/h; 29.3 mph) (maximum)
17.2 knots (31.9 km/h; 19.8 mph) (cruising)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
7,150 nautical miles (13,240 km; 8,230 mi) at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph)
Troops: Up to 675
Complement: 62 officers
393 sailors
146 aircrew
Sensors and
processing systems:
Hughes SPS-52C air search radar, E/F band
2 x Kelvin-Hughes 1007 navigational radars
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Decoys:
4 x SRBOC decoy launchers
SLQ-32 towed decoy
Armament: 2 x 0.5-inch machine guns
3 x sextuple Sadral launchers for Mistral surface-to-air missiles
Aircraft carried: 9 AV-8S Matadors (retired 2006)
6 S-70B Seahawk helicopters
2(+4) MH-60S Knighthawk
Up to 14 additional helicopters when required
Aviation facilities: 174.6-by-27.5-metre (573 by 90 ft) flight deck
12° ski-jump
Hangar space for 10 aircraft
Notes: Equipment fitted for but not with is listed in the article

HTMS Chakri Naruebet (Thai จักรีนฤเบศร, meaning "In honour of the Chakri Dynasty"[1]) is the flagship of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN), and Thailand's first and only aircraft carrier. Based on the Spanish Navy's Principe de Asturias design and constructed by Spanish shipbuilder Bazán, Chakri Naruebet was ordered in 1992, launched in 1996, and commissioned into the RTN in 1997.

The aircraft carrier is designed to operate an air group of V/STOL fighter aircraft and helicopters, and is fitted with a ski-jump. Initial intentions were to operate a mixed air group of Matador V/STOL aircraft and S-70B Seahawk helicopters. However, by 1999, only one Matador was operational, and the entire V/STOL fleet was removed from service in 2006. Although Chakri Naruebet was intended for patrols and force projection in Thai waters, a lack of funding brought on by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis meant the carrier has spent much of her career docked at the Sattahip naval base.

Chakri Naruebet has been deployed on several disaster relief operations, including in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and in response to separate flooding incidents in late 2010 and early 2011. Other than disaster relief, the carrier's few other departures from port are for a single training day per month, and transportation of the Royal Family of Thailand, leading to claims by some naval commentators that the ship is merely an oversized royal yacht.[1][2]

Design[edit]

When Typhoon Gay hit Thailand in 1989, the Royal Thai Navy, as the main unit responsible for search and rescue missions, found that its ships and aircraft were unable to withstand the rough weather at sea.[3] Moreover, the Royal Thai Navy needed a new, high-technology ship to modernize its fleet.[3] The original plan was to acquire a 7,800 ton vessel from Bremer Vulcan, but the Thai government cancelled this contract on 22 July 1991.[4] A new contract for a larger warship to be constructed at Bazán's shipyard in Ferrol, Spain was signed by the Thai and Spanish governments on 27 March 1992.[4] The proposed vessel was based on the design of the Spanish Navy aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias, which in turn was based on the United States Navy's Sea Control Ship concept.[2][5] The design is formally referred to by the RTN as an "Offshore Patrol Helicopter Carrier".[6][7][8]

Aerial photograph of two aircraft carriers sailing in concert on calm water. The upper ship is smaller, and has a small number of aircraft on its flight deck. The larger carrier, with a flat deck crowded with planes and helicopters, is towards the bottom.
Chakri Naruebet (top) underway with the United States Navy supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk

Chakri Naruebet is the smallest aircraft carrier in operation in the world. She displaces 11,486 tons at full load.[1] The carrier is 164.1 metres (538 ft) long between perpendiculars, and 182.65 metres (599.2 ft) overall.[1] She is 22.5 metres (74 ft) wide at the waterline, with a maximum beam of 30.5 metres (100 ft), and a draught of 6.12 metres (20.1 ft).[1] The warship has a ship's company of 62 officers, 393 sailors, and 146 aircrew.[1] Up to 675 additional personnel can be transported, usually from the Royal Thai Marine Corps.[1][9]

Chakri Naruebet is propelled by a combined diesel or gas (CODOG) system.[1] Each of the two, five-bladed propellers is connected to a Bazán-MTU 16V1163 TB83 diesel engine (providing 5,600 brake horsepower (4,200 kW), used for cruising speed), and a General Electric LM2500 gas turbine (providing 22,125 shaft horsepower (16,499 kW), used to reach top speed for short periods).[1] Chakri Naruebet has a maximum speed of 25.5 knots (47.2 km/h; 29.3 mph), although she can only reach 17.2 knots (31.9 km/h; 19.8 mph) with the diesels alone.[1] She has a maximum range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) with a constant speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), and 7,150 nautical miles (13,240 km; 8,230 mi) at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph).[1]

Armament and aircraft[edit]

Chakri Naruebet is fitted with two 0.5-inch machine guns, and three Matra Sadral sextuple surface-to-air missile launchers firing Mistral missiles.[4][9] The missile launchers were installed in 2001.[4] The vessel is also fitted for but not with an 8-cell Mark 41 Vertical launch system for Sea Sparrow missiles, and four Phalanx close-in weapon systems.[2]

The carrier was designed to operate an air group of up to six AV-8S Matador V/STOL aircraft, plus four to six S-70B Seahawk helicopters.[1][9] Chakri Naruebet is also capable of carrying up to fourteen additional helicopters; a mix of Sikorsky Sea King, Sikorsky S-76, and CH-47 Chinook.[1] There is only enough hangar space for ten aircraft.[4][9]

The Matador is a first generation export version of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, acquired secondhand from the Spanish Navy in 1997.[5][10] The nine Spanish aircraft (seven standard version plus two TAV-8S trainer aircraft) were refurbished by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA firm before delivery.[10] By 1999, only one aircraft was operational, and the RTN was looking for other first-generation Harriers to cannibalize for spares.[10][11] In 2003, the navy attempted to acquire several second-generation,ex-Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft from British Aerospace, but the deal did not go ahead.[12] The inoperative Matadors were finally eliminated from service lists in 2006.[13] Thailand was the last remaining government using first generation Harrier airframes.

The flight deck measures 174.6 by 27.5 metres (573 by 90 ft).[4] A 12° ski-jump assists V/STOL aircraft to take off.[4] There are two aircraft lifts, each capable of lifting 20 tons.[4]

Sensors and countermeasures[edit]

The sensor suite of Chakri Narebet consists of a Hughes SPS-52C air search radar operating on the E/F band, and two Kelvin-Hughes 1007 navigational radars.[4] There are provisions to install an SPS-64 surface search radar and a hull-mounted sonar, but neither has been fitted as of 2008.[4][9] Fire control facilities are also yet to be fitted.[4]

The carrier is equipped with four SRBOC decoy launchers,[9] and an SLQ-25 towed decoy.[citation needed]

In April 2012 Saab won a contract to upgrade Chakri Naruebet's command and control systems. This will include fitting a 9LV Mk4 command and control system to the ship as well as a Sea Giraffe AMB radar and improved datalinks.[14]

Construction[edit]

Work on the Thai carrier commenced in October 1993, although it was not until 12 July 1994 that the hull was laid down.[2][4] Chakri Naruebet was launched on 20 January 1996[2] by Queen Sirikit.

Sea trials were conducted from October 1996 to January 1997, the latter part of which was in coordination with the Spanish Navy.[2][4] This was followed by aviation trials at Rota, Spain.[4] The carrier was handed over on 27 March 1997, when she was commissioned into the RTN.[1][4] She arrived in Thai waters at the start of August 1997, and formally entered service on 10 August.[2]

Chakri Naruebet cost US$336 million to build.[11]

Role and operational history[edit]

Chakri Naruebet is the first aircraft carrier to be operated by a Southeast Asian nation.[2] She is assigned to the Third Naval Area Command, and her intended duties include operational support of the RTN's amphibious warfare forces, patrols and force projection around Thailand's coastline and economic exclusion zone, disaster relief and humanitarian missions, and search-and-rescue (SAR) operations.[1][2][4][5][11] However, at the time the carrier entered service, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis prevented the necessary funding to operate the ship from being available.[2][11] Consequently, Chakri Naruebet is usually only operational for a single day per month for training, with the rest of the time spent alongside as a "part-time tourist attraction".[1][2][11] The ship rarely leaves the proximity of the Sattahip naval base, and when she does, it is usually to transport and host the Royal Family of Thailand.[1][2] Naval commentators consider Chakri Naruebet to be less an aircraft carrier and more the world's largest and most expensive royal yacht, while the Thai media have nicknamed the ship "Thai-tanic", and consider her to be a white elephant.[2][11]

A small aircraft carrier photographed from behind as she sails across calm waters
Stern view of Chakri Naruebet

Between 4 and 7 November 1997, Chakri Naruebet participated in disaster relief operations following the passage of Tropical Storm Linda across the Gulf of Thailand and the Kra Isthmus.[15] The carrier's main task was to search for and assist any fishing vessels affected by the storm.[15]

Flooding in the Songkhla Province resulted in the carrier's mobilisation in late November 2000.[15] Chakri Naruebet was anchored at an island marina off Songkhla, and used as a base for helicopters and small boats transporting food, supplies, and wounded.[15]

In January 2003, anti-Thai riots were sparked in Phnom Penh by incorrect news reports of a claim by a Thai actress that the Angkor Wat temple complex belonged to Thailand, not Cambodia. Chakri Naruebet was sent to help with any evacuation of Thai citizens from Cambodia.[clarification needed][15]

Following an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean, tsunamis struck multiple regions around the Indian Ocean, including the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand. The personnel of Chakri Naruebet were part of a 760-strong response by the Thai military to the disaster.[15] This task force was involved in search-and-rescue around Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands, treatment of wounded and handling of dead, and repair work to schools and government facilities.[15]

During the August 2005 filming of Rescue Dawn, a dramatized biographical film of US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler and his capture during the Vietnam War, the flight deck of Chakri Naruebet was used to represent the carrier USS Ranger.[16]

In November 2010, the ship was involved in flood relief operations following the 2010 Thai floods; anchored off Songkhla Province, relief supplies and food were airlifted to people in the region, while hospital patients were evacuated by the ship's helicopters.[17] Chakri Naruebet was sent to Koh Tao in late March during the 2011 Southern Thailand floods, as the heavy storms causing the flooding had isolated the island, requiring the evacuation of tourists and local citizens.[18]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Werthem (ed.), Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, p. 772
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 88
  3. ^ a b Past[clarification needed], Royal Thai Navy
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Saunders (ed.) Jane's Fighting Ships 2008-2009, p. 786
  5. ^ a b c Ireland, The Illustrated Guide to Aircraft Carriers of the World, p. 249
  6. ^ Pike (ed.), Chakri Naruebet
  7. ^ Chakri Naruebet, Thailand, naval-technology.com
  8. ^ "The welcome ceremony of H.T.M.S.CHAKRI NARUEBET". Royal Thai Navy. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Bishop & Chant, Aircraft Carriers, p. 89
  10. ^ a b c Goebel, Harriers in Service and the Falklands War
  11. ^ a b c d e f Carpenter & Wiencek, Asian Security Handbook 2000, p. 302
  12. ^ Dunn, The Harrier: Overseas Service
  13. ^ Cooper, End of a Legend
  14. ^ "Saab receives order from Thailand regarding upgrading of command and control system". Press release. Saab. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Chakri Nauebet disaster relief missions, Royal Thai Navy
  16. ^ http://www.docstoc.com/docs/148533752/Royal-Thai-Navy---Thai-Aviation-History
  17. ^ Earth Times, Thai aircraft carrier used as floating kitchen
  18. ^ Bangkok Post, Navy races South to aid victims

References[edit]

Books
Journal and news articles
Websites

External links[edit]