Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Chakri Naruebet is the smallest serving aircraft carrier in the world.

The RTN (Royal Thai Navy) HMTS (His Majesty's Thai Ship) Chakri Naruebet (911) is Thailand's first and only aircraft carrier and is the smallest serving carrier in the world. The name "Chakri Naruebet" was given by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and it translates to "the sovereign of the Chakri Dynasty." The design was a lesser and a simpler version of the Spanish carrier Principe de Asturiass. Chakri Naruebet was built in Ferrol, Spain, by shipbuilders Izar EN Bazan between 1994-1996 and both designs were based on the American Sea Control Ship (SCS) model.

The Royal Thai Navy built the fixed wing and helicopter carrier with a budget of seven billion baht or $175 million US. The Royal Thai family needed a new, high-technology ship to modernize its fleet feeling a naval presence was needed due to growing regional rivals with their fleets from Malaysia and Indonesia. Chakri Naruebet was delivered to Thailand in 1997 and became the flagship and Thai Navy and the figure head as the Royal family yacht. Suitable state rooms were built in the design plus quarters for the family staff members.

The Chakri Naruebet main task is the patrol and protection of Thailand’s considerable coast line. The ship cruises on diesel but can change to her gas turbines for high speed runs. When the Typhoon Gay hit Thailand in 1989, the Royal Thai Navy, as the main unit was responsible for search and rescue missions and found that its ships and aircraft were unsuitable to operate in the rough weather. However the ship has participated in training and disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami. The carrier played a major role in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance and search and rescue.

Her main armament is defensive with an American-built Mk.41 eight cell vertical launch system ordered in 2007. Reports indicate three French Matra Sadral points of defense systems and four Vulcan/Phalanx 20 mm/o.79 in CIWS have been purchased. She lacks medium range search radar and proper fire control systems. Additional future needs are electronic warfare support systems and countermeasures and a planned hull mounted sonar for anti submarine warfare.

The first squadron of AV-8S Harrier supplied with Chakri Naruebet are now over thirty years old and spare parts are becoming difficult to locate so they have rarely been deployed in recent years. Her main anti-aircraft missile systems have not been installed and this ship goes to sea about one day a month due to cost constraints. Most military observers consider her a Royal prestige vessel rather than a military operation support V/STOL amphibious warfare capable carrier.

Some countries are interested in like models for her size makes her a candidate as a merchant convoy protection ship. With pirates operating of the coast of Africa in 2008 this concept has received serious notice.

The 605-total crew complement breaks down as follows: 393 enlisted, 146 aircrew, 62 officers and 4 Royal Family members and their staff.



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