Vietnam’s armed forces have commissioned two new diesel electric attack submarines of the Improved Kilo Class, the last of six vessels ordered from Russia in 2009. The warships were ordered under a $2.1 billion contract with Admiralty Shipyards, the first two of which were commissioned in April 2014. The flag raising ceremony for the latest vessels was attended by head of state Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Indicating the purpose of the new vessels, the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of the country’s naval capabilities given the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea – praising the navy’s willingness to defend the country’s territorial waters. He further noted that Vietnam sought to avoid a regional arms race, but nevertheless was adamant that the country would continue to defend its maritime claims.
With Russia serving as the primary arms supplier for the Vietnamese military, and its predecessor the North Vietnamese military during the Soviet era, Moscow’s fast growing defence cooperation with the People’s Republic of China has positioned it well to arm both sides of the territorial dispute. With no other country producing a submarine with comparable capabilities to the Advanced Kilo for export, the submarine represents one of the many weapons systems fielded by the armed forces of both countries. While the Vietnam People’s Navy now fields six Improved Kilo Class vessels, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy deploys ten of the advanced warships alongside two less sophisticated original Kilo Class boats. Other ex
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