The Thai and US navies are set to undertake a “limited salvage” mission for the HTMS Sukhothai, which tragically sank in the Gulf of Thailand in December 2022, resulting in the loss of 29 crew members.
The announcement came during a press event led by Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff Gen Thitichai Thienthong and US Ambassador Robert F. Godec, outlining the details of the operation scheduled from February 19 to March 4, coinciding with the annual Cobra Gold military exercise from February 27 to March 10.
Admiral Chatchai Thongsaard, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Fleet, described the mission as a “light salvage” aimed at locating the five missing crew members, gathering underwater evidence for further investigation, deactivating US armaments on the ship, and salvaging specific equipment and armaments. The Thai Navy is contributing several vessels and 40 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officials, while the US Navy is providing the Ocean Valor ship and 20 EOD officials for the operation.
Cobra Gold 2024, the backdrop for this mission, is an annual multinational military exercise that fosters cooperation among participating nations, including Thailand, the US, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Malaysia, with China, Australia, and India participating in humanitarian aid exercises.
The HTMS Sukhothai sank during a storm off Prachuap Khiri Khan province on December 18, 2022, leading to the rescue of 76 crew members, the death of 24, and five missing, presumed dead.