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Russian Media: Chinese Diesel-Electric Submarines Steal Market Share from Russia

The TASS Russian News Agency recently published long commentaries, claiming that China is actively expanding in the submarine market and that Russian submarines are facing competitors. A March 29th article gave an example that Russia’s Project 636 diesel-electric submarine, which was originally planned to be exported to Thailand, met with a fiasco because it faced competition from China’s S26T submarine and lost huge orders. This is just the latest example of China squeezing the Russian traditional arms market.

The Russian media commented that Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Russia were previously considered to be world leaders in the field of submarine shipbuilding, with the Asia-Pacific always regarded as a market for the Russians. Now, in the field of diesel-electric submarines, a new player – China – is emerging.

The article  said that, as early as May 2017, China’s Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s (CSIC) S26T diesel-electric submarine already defeated Russia’s Kilo-class 636 conventionally-powered submarine, and the Royal Thai Navy awarded it with a contract valued at US$ 360 million, for one S26T diesel-electric submarine scheduled to be delivered in 2023. After that, the Chinese S26T submarine once again defeated Russia’s improved version of the Kilo-class submarine. It received orders from the Thai military for the purchase of two other submarines to be delivered in 2026. The total contract value of the three submarines is up to a billion dollars.

Earlier, China built eight S20 diesel-electric submarines through close cooperation for Pakistan, and leveled the playing field with Russia whose 877EKM submarine were exported to India.

Russian experts commented that China had previously purchased four 877EKM and eight 636 submarines from Russia. In fact, the break-through of China’s diesel-electric submarine technology took place after importing the Kilo-class submarines from Russia.

TASS observed that CSIC recently stated that at least eight countries in the world – Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela – are interested in Chinese submarines. This news is not likely to make the Russians happy because these countries have long been Russian partners in the export of weapons and equipment.

Source: Radio Free Asia, April 4, 2019