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Thayer Russian Subs in Vietnam

Thayer Russian Subs in Vietnam

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An an analysis of the announcement that Vietnam will take delivery of the first of six Kilo-class non-nuclear attack submarines later this year (2012). The analysis includes historical background, the capabilities of the Kilo-class submarine and its operational environment.
An an analysis of the announcement that Vietnam will take delivery of the first of six Kilo-class non-nuclear attack submarines later this year (2012). The analysis includes historical background, the capabilities of the Kilo-class submarine and its operational environment.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Aug 21, 2012
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 Published on
U.S. Naval Institute 
 (http://www.usni.org) Home> Russian Subs in Vietnam
Russian Subs in Vietnam
Print[1]by Carlyle A. ThayerAugust 21, 2012On August 15,
Thanh Nien
newspaper reported that Vietnam would take delivery of its firstKilo-class submarine by the end of the year. Vietnam has another five Kilo submarines onorder and is expected to take delivery at the rate of one submarine a year. According to
Vietnam’s defense Minister, General Phung Quang Thanh, Vietnam will develop a modern
submarine fleet in the next five to six years (2016-2017). In the late 1980s Vietnam soughtto acquire its first submarine from the Soviet Union. A crew was selected and it trained on aProject 641 diesel submarine attached to the Soviet Pacific Fleet. The program wassuspended by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev out of concerns about riling China.
Vietnam’s hopes to acqu
ire submarines went into abeyance with the collapse of the USSR.In a 1997 guns-for-rice barter, Vietnam acquired two Yugo-class mini-submarines fromNorth Korea. These were berthed at Cam Ranh Bay where they underwent repair andoverhaul. For the next 13 years analysts were uncertain about their operational status. InJanuary 2010,
Tuoi Tre
newspaper dramatically revealed the existence of M96, Vietnam’s
secret submarine service, with a photo of a Yugo submarine and its crew. The Yugos wereused for diver related operations. According to a Western defense attaché stationed in
Moscow, “The mini
-sub experience provides a basic foundation for understanding
submarine operations and maintenance.”Vietnam’s interest in acquiring a full
-size conventional submarine was apparently whetted in1997 as a result of a visit by a Russian Project 636 Kilo-class submarine to Cam Ranh Bay. In2000 there were unconfirmed reports that Vietnam and Russia had reached a memorandumof understanding covering the possible sale of submarines. Also that year, Vietnam andIndia signed a defense agreement that included a provision for the Indian navy to providetraining for Vietnamese naval personnel including submariners.
In October 2002 Vietnam asked India to provide submarine training, but another four yearspassed before India announced it would commence training for Vietnamese naval cadetsand officers. Currently India is providing training in submarine escape procedure toVietnamese naval personnel.The year 2008 marked a major turning point. Vietnam unsuccessfully sought to acquireconventional submarines from Serbia. It then turned to Russia and reached an agreement inprinciple to purchase six Project 636M Kilo-clas
s submarines. During 2008 Vietnam’s
defense minister and state president made separate visits to Moscow to clinch the deal.
In 2009 Russian industry sources went public. On April 24, Vladimir Aleksandrov, the generaldirector of Admiralteiskie Verfi (Admiralty Shipyard) in St. Petersburg, announced that hiscompany had been identified to execute a contract for six Improved Kilo-class Project 636submarines. The submarines were priced at US $300-350 million per unit or $1.8-2.1 billionin total.The formal contract to purchase the six Kilos was signed in Moscow by the Russian armsexporter, Rosoboronexport, and the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense in December2009. The signing was witnessed by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Nguyen TanDung. Admiralty Shipyards began construction of the first of six submarines with a keel-laying ceremony on August 24, 2010. This submarine is scheduled to be launched on August28, 2012 and is now undergoing a series of sea trials before delivery to Vietnam.The Russia-Vietnam submarine contract also included provisions for
in addition to thedelivery of the six submarines
crew training and the construction of an on-shoremaintenance facility. In March 2010, Vietnam formally requested Russian assistance inconstructing a submarine base at Cam Ranh Bay.
Project 636M-class Kilo-class submarine
The Project 636M submarine is officially designated the Varshavyanka-class by Russia; it ismore widely known by its NATO designation, the Kilo-class. The Kilo is a non-nuclear fastattack submarine (SSK). It can perform the following missions: anti-submarine and anti-shipping warfare, coastal defense, mine laying, general reconnaissance and patrol.Vietnam has ordered the latest variant theimproved 636MV. It has better range, speed,reliability, sea endurance, acoustic characterizesand firepower than its earlier variant.The Project 636 Kilo-class submarine has been
dubbed the “black hole” by the U.S. Navy for its
level of quietness. The Project 636MV-class subhas improved stealth features through theremoval of flooding ports and treating the hullwith multilayer anechoic rubber tiles. The tilesare fitted on casings and fins to absorb active sonar waves that reduce and distort thereturn signal. The anechoic tiles also shield sounds from within the submarine thus reducingthe range of detection by passive sonar.The improved Kilo is 73.8 meters (242 ft.) in length, 9.9 meters (32.4 ft.) in width with adraft of 6.2 meters (20.34 ft.). It has a surface displacement of 2,350 tons and can dive up toquarter of a mile. The improved Kilo is powered by diesel-electric engines. It has a range of 9,650 km (5,996 miles) and can travel 700 km (434 miles) underwater at 2.7 knots (5km/hour) at quiet speed. The Kilo can reach a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/hour). Vietnamapparently has not opted for the Air Independent Propulsion system that would permitextended time on patrol. The Improved Kilo has a crew of 57.The Project 636MV submarine has six 533-mm forward torpedo tubes. It can carry 18torpedoes (six loaded in the tubes and 12 in racks) or 24 mines (two in each tube and 12 inracks). Two of the torpedo tubes are designed to fire remote-controlled torpedoes with very
high accuracy. The improved Kilo can also fire anti-ship cruise missiles from its torpedotubes. The Kilo also carries MANPADS Strela-3 antiaircraft missiles.
In June 2010 it was reported that the total cost of Vietnam’s submarine package had risen
from the original estimates of $1.8-$2.1 billion to $3.2 billion. The additional costs included
armaments and infrastructure construction. Industry sources report that Vietnam’s Kilo
-submarines will be equipped with either the 53-56 or TEST 76 heavy torpedoes. Industry
sources also speculate that Vietnam’s Kilo
s will be kitted out with anti-ship missiles, such asthe 3M-54E or 3M-54E1. In July 2011, Oleg Azizov, a representative of Rosoboronexport,confirmed that Vietnam will take delivery of the deadly Novator Club-S (SS-N-27) anti-shipcruise missile with a range of 300 kilometers.
Operational Environment
Vietnam is acquiring Kilo-class submarines for operations in the relatively shallow waters of 
the South China Sea. When they commence operations they will enhance Vietnam’s
maritime domain awareness about the operations of foreign paramilitary and naval vessels
in waters off Vietnam’s coastline and in waters surrounding the Spratly Islands. In addition,
the Kilo submarines will provide a deterrent against the contingency that China mightattempt to quickly seize an island or feature occupied by Vietnam in the South China Sea.More generally, the Kilos will provide a modest but potent anti-access/area denial capability
against intimidation by Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy warships.
Before Vietnam acquires these capabilities it will have to absorb the Kilos into its forcestructure and transition from a two-dimensional (surface and air) to a three- dimensionalforce. Vietnam will also need to find the funding for maintenance and repair to keep theKilos operational and develop a capable submarine rescue capability. Industry analystspredict that Vietnam will fall somewhere between Singapore and Indonesia in its ability toabsorb the Kilos and produce effective capability. These analysts say much depends onsustained Russian and Indian support over the coming years for Vietnam to develop a trulymodern submarine fleet.
Carlyle A. Thayer is the Emeritus Professor of Politics, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra.
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 Categories:Foreign Forces

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Carlyle Alan Thayer added this note|
This revision contains a photo of Vietnam's first Kilo diesel submarine when it was launched at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, Russia. This revision also contained an article in Vietnamese about the launch in Bao Dat Viet newspaper.
Carlyle Alan Thayer added this note|
This revision adds a translation into Vietnamese by the BBC.
Carlyle Alan Thayer added this note|
This revision adds a Vietnamese translation prepared by Radio France Internationale.
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