Naval gazing in the South China Sea

Following the news that Hanoi will take delivery of its first Kilo-class boat later this year (first reported by Russian news agency RIA Novosti and then picked up by Thanh Nien), Carl Thayer provides an in-depth look at Russian Subs in Vietnam (Aug 21, 2012).

Might China launch small-scale military strikes against Vietnam or Philippines over contested islands and waters? That’s the bluster coming out of Beijing. (Jens Kastner, Apr 6, 2012).

Vietnam builds naval muscle: “Following a series of high-profile procurement deals, Vietnam’s growing naval program symbolizes its evolving military posture. Driven by persistent maritime disputes with China and facilitated by an expanding economy, Vietnam is actively modernizing its military through naval, air and electronic-fighting capability upgrades.” (The Hanoist, Mar 29, 2012).

Most of the big ticket arms purchases have come from Moscow. With “Vietnam’s Russian Restocking“, Vietnam is currently the top customer for Russian military hardware after India.

Gepard Watch

Vietnam’s naval modernization took a significant leap forward with the delivery and deployment of two Gepard-class light frigates in 2011. Armed with an antiship missile system, one 76.2-mm and two 30-mm gun mounts the ships displace 2,100 tons, falling somewhere between a large corvette and small frigate. The two Project 1166.1 (Type 3.9) Gepard frigates–named Dinh Tien Hoang and Ly Thai To–were built by the Zelenodolsk Shipyard in Russia for US$350 million. They are equipped with a heliport for Ka-28 or equivalent helicopters.

Dec 7, 2011: Vietnam ordered an additional two Gepard 3.9 frigates. The second pair will be equipped for anti-submarine warfare. (The first pair was ordered in 2006; their keels were laid in 2007; the boats were delivered in 2011.)

Kilo Watch

In late 2009, Vietnam placed an order for six Project 636-MV Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, Known for their quiet operation and ability to operate in the shallow waters of the South China Sea, the Kilos would make Vietnam potentially the largest operator of submarines in Southeast Asia. Other countries currently deploying Kilo-class submarines are Algeria, China, India, Poland, Iran, Romania and Russia.

Initial media reports quoted a US$1.8 billion price tag for the six subs. Subsequent stories in the Russian press have indicated a total package cost of US$3.2 covering also spare parts, training and construction of a submarine base at strategic Cam Ranh Bay.

Aug 24, 2010: The keel for the first Kilo (Yard No. 01339) was laid down at the Admiralteysky shipyard in St. Petersburg. The submarine is expected to be delivered in 2013/2014.

Sep 15, 2011: According to Defence Ministry sources in New Delhi, India will provide Vietnam with “intensive” submarine and underwater warfare training as part of the two countries’ expanding military ties.

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