Expert: Vietnam to Become Leading Buyer of Russian Arms
In the next few years, Vietnam will join the top three importers of Russian arms, said Igor Korotchenko, director general of the World Arms Trade Analytic Center (WATAC).
That was his comment on press reports that Admiralteyskie Verfi shipyard (St. Petersburg) on Aug 28 would launch the first out of six Kilo-class submarines ordered by Vietnam.
"Taking into account officially announced and currently negotiated large-scale submarine export programs, one may state that in the mid-term prospect Vietnam will be definitely among the top three importers of Russian weapons", Korotchenko told RIA Novosti.
In the last 4-year period (2008-2011) WATAC evaluates scope of identified Russian military export to Vietnam (determined by UN Register of Conventional Arms) as $1.88 bln, which makes 6.3% of Russia's total exports. With this result, Vietnam took fifth position in the rating of Russian arms importers.
According to the current backlog of orders, in the present 4-year period (2012-2015), Vietnam has climbed on the fourth position in that rating. WATAC appraises volume of estimated Russian military export to Vietnam in 2012-2015 as $2.43 bln which will make 7.6% of Russia's total exports including current orders and intentions of direct deliveries.
In recent years, Vietnam has signed a number of large arms procurement contracts, Korotchenko said.
For one, trying to modernize its navy radically, Vietnam has become one of the largest buyers of Russian naval weapons. The biggest program is delivery of six Project 636 (Kilo-class) diesel-electric submarines to Vietnamese Navy.
Russia and Vietnam signed that $2 bln contract late in 2009. Kilo-class subs built for Vietnam will be armed with Club-S cruise missiles.
Three months after the contract signing, the parties kicked off talks on construction of a basing site for diesel submarines with appropriate infrastructure. According to expert appraisals, value of this program would be either comparable or even larger than cost of submarines.
"Alongside with acquiring a submarine fleet, Vietnam began renewal of its surface ships and boats. Lion's share of Vietnamese Navy modernization is also held by Russia", pointed out the WATAC director.
In particular, it is delivery program of Project 10412 patrol boats (export version of Project 10410 Svetlyak). In total, Vietnam has received six boats of that project. Each of them costs about $15 mln. The second largest project in boats' segment is the Molniya-class boat delivery and license production program.
Another large project being implemented with Vietnam is delivery of frigates. In 2006, Rosoboronexport signed a $350 mln contract for delivery of two Project 11661 Gepard-3.9 frigates to Vietnamese Navy. Its ensign was triumphantly hoisted on the first frigate early March 2011 at the Cam Ranh naval base. The second frigate was commissioned into Vietnamese Navy late Aug 2011.
According to WATAC, in Dec 2011 an option for delivery of the second pair of Gepard-class frigates was turned into effective contract.
Except for that, Russia holds negotiations with Vietnam on delivery of additional antiship coast-based missile systems Bastion under target-specific government credit for several types of weapon systems.
Two sets of the K-330P Bastion-P missile systems were handed over to Vietnam under the first contract in 2010 and 2011.
Large-scale military aircraft export programs are being realized with Vietnam as well. Early in 2009, the $400 mln contract was signed implying delivery of eight Su-30MK2 fighters without aircraft weapon. In Feb 2010, the second $1 bln contract was signed for twelve Su-30MK2 fighters with weapons. It also provides delivery of aircraft weapons for the first lot of airplanes ordered in 2009.
Early in 2011, Russia had finished deliveries under the first contract and started implementation of the second one (eight fighters have been delivered). It is planned to complete the contract in 2012 with delivery of the rest four airplanes.
Considering additional procurement, JSC Sukhoi holds talks on founding of a regional aircraft maintenance center in Vietnam.
Also, Vietnam is considered a potential buyer of 18 fighters Su-30K stationed in Belarus.
Hanoi recently declared an intention to launch national air defense modernization program with Russia's assistance.
Therefore, in the mid-term prospect Vietnam will entrench itself at the third position of Russian arms importers rating, concluded Korotchenko.