Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Asian Orphan Vietnam Eagerly Grows Up

Vietnam Map@peter peng blog

No country in Asia is so worrying about itself like Vietnam nowadays. Unlike most of the other southern Asian countries that under the protection of U.S. umbrella, Vietnam looks more like an orphan since Russia withdrew from Cam Ranh Bay, the Russian naval base in Vietnam, in May of 2002.

Recently, under the shade of the fast development of Chinese naval and air force, Vietnam has always the feeling of pricks on the back due to intensified conflict with China on the territorial controversy in the South China Sea. Although Vietnam knows it will never be as powerful as its neighbor China, it is still endeavoring on hindering any China’s upcoming attempt to drive it out of its already occupied reefs of Spratly Islands.

According to Russian media, Vietnam signed with Russia last week a two billion U.S. dollar contract to buy six Russian-made Kilo class submarines. It will also spend another 0.6 billion dollars to purchase 12 Su-30MK2 fighters to protect its interests in the South China Sea.

Recently, Vietnamese defense minister visited Washington and met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging the U.S. to relieve Vietnam of some of the Vietnam-US military-technical constraints. He also met at the other time with French defense minister to talk about procurement requirements on French helicopters and cargo aircraft. The orphan is hurriedly growing up. The money from oil resources in South China Sea is changing into advanced arms in the hands of the orphan.

The ordered six Russian Kilo class submarines are Project 636 improved ones, which are known as the quietest submarines in the world. Anechoic tiles (special rubber tiles) are fitted on casings and fins to absorb the sonar sound waves from enemy’s active sonar, and to attenuate sounds that are emitted from the submarine itself to reduce the chance being detected by enemy’s passive sonar.

Su-30MK2 is a multi-role fighter that has a range of 3,000km. It is capable of carrying eight tons of anti-air, anti-ship, anti-radar, and anti-submarine weapons. Its modified radar systems are capable of detecting and tracking up to 15 air-targets, while concurrently attacking four of them. The radar systems can also detect large sea-surface targets at a distance of up to 400 km and small ones at a distance of up to 120 km.

Once the new Vietnamese air and sea fleets form combat ability, they will be an un-ignorable deterrence to protect Vietnamese interests in South China Sea. The Asian orphan will not be a small one anymore and will flex mussels when that day comes.