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PAVN Order of Battle

Author’s Note: Finding good, up-to-date information about the military of Vietnam is a bit of a struggle
for the English-speaking researcher. As Vietnam is neither an ally nor likely opponent in a modern war, its
forces are a low priority for Western defense analysts, and those who do write on the topic focus mostly
on their expanding air and naval forces. Information about the ground forces is paltry, and is often
buried under information dating back to the Vietnam War. Thus, I have had to make some assumptions
and educated guesses based on synthesis of the information I was able to find and confirm. My main
sources have been IISS’s Military Balance, 2016 (good, but very general), GlobalSecurity.org (lots of
information, but not well-curated or up-to-date, and mostly uncited), Wikipedia (good for confirming
information found elsewhere, contains independent research by contributors), and Vietnamese news and
government sources (the most up-to-date, but available only via Google Translate). Take all information
provided here with a grain of salt, and if you have information on any specific inaccuracies please feel
free to contact me about them.

Organization:

The People’s Army of Vietnam is organized on a three-tiered readiness system. At the highest readiness
level are PAVN’s four Army Corps, sometimes referred to collectively as the “Mobile Force,” which are
expected to be able to intervene anywhere in the country and make limited incursions outside the
country (like Vietnam’s 1978 invasion of Cambodia).

The second-highest readiness is the “Reserve Forces,” which are geographically organized on the basis
of 7 “Military Regions” (and the Military Region-equivalent Hanoi Capitol Command). The divisions that
make up each Military Region’s forces are generally smaller and equipped with less up-to-date
equipment, but are still full-time soldiers. The forces of the Military Regions are expected to be able to
defend their own region, but are not expected to operate abroad.

Finally, Vietnam operates an extensive system of part-time volunteers and former soldiers. In the
countryside, these forces are referred to as People’s Militia, while units in urban areas are called
People’s Self-Defense Forces. These units are subordinate to the Military Regions, and are further
organized under Provincial Military Commands (PMCs). In a conflict, Militia/PSDF units are expected to
fulfill diverse battlefield roles, including the armed defense of their immediate localities.
Main Force

The “Main Force” (or “Mobile Force,” depending on source) is the army’s frontline units, roughly
comparable to the “Category A” designation in the old Soviet system. These forces are considered
immediately combat-ready, and are given the most up-to-date equipment and training. The Main Force
is organized into four Corps, and is expected to be able to fight anywhere in the country (and limited
foreign expeditions). The four Main Force Corps are thus independent of Vietnam’s Military Regions.
Each Corps consists of 3 divisions and supporting elements, and numbers around 32,000 soldiers.

Divisions each consist of three regiments of infantry, along with supporting units. Each individual
regiment is likewise made up of three battalions, and various supporting units. While some divisions are
referred to as being Mechanized or Motorized (“cơ giới”), this designation typically only means that one
of the division’s three regiments is fully mounted.

I Corps (HQ: Tam Diep, 308th Mechanized Division*


Ninh Binh) 312th Mechanized Division*
390th Infantry Division
202nd Armored Brigade
368th Artillery Brigade
241st Air Defense Brigade
299th Engineer Brigade
II Corps (HQ: Voi, Lang 304th Mechanized Division*
Giang, Bac Giang) 306th Infantry Division
325th Mechanized Division*
203rd Armored Brigade
164th Artillery Brigade
673rd Air Defense Brigade
219th Engineer Brigade
III Corps (HQ: Tra Ba, 10th Infantry Division
Pleiku, Gia Lai) 31st Infantry Division
320th Mechanized Division*
273rd Armored Brigade
40th Artillery Brigade
234th Air Defense Brigade
7th Engineer Brigade
IV Corps (HQ: Song 7th Infantry Division
Than, Di An, Binh 9th Infantry Division
Duong) 309th Infantry Division
22nd Armored Brigade
434th Artillery Brigade
71st Air Defense Brigade
550th Engineer Brigade
*Units marked are members of the original 6 “Steel and Iron” Divisions, the first six divisions of
the North Vietnamese Army. Because of their political importance, these units may be more likely to
receive newer equipment and upgrades, similar to ‘Guards’ units in the Russian system.
Local Forces

The “Local Forces” (sometimes rendered as “Reserve Force”) are the army’s lower-readiness “Category
B” units. These units are maintained at partial readiness, and would take several days to be brought to
full combat capability. Local Forces generally will have less training and more outdated equipment, but
are still full-time military forces. The Local Forces are commanded from one of Vietnam’s 7 Military
Regions, and are designed mostly for strategic defense of these regions. Each Military Region has 2-4
divisions and supporting elements, with around 27,000-35,000 soldiers, except for the Hanoi Capital
Military Command, which has one division and 15,000 total soldiers. In an exception to the rule above,
the forces of the Hanoi Capitol Military Command are probably maintained at the same level of
readiness and quality of equipment as the Main Force units.
1st Military Region (HQ: 3rd Infantry Division
Dong Hy, Thai Nguyen) 346th Infantry Division
409th Armored Brigade
382nd Artillery Brigade
210st Air Defense Brigade
575th Engineer Brigade
601st Information Brigade
nd
2 Military Region 316th Infantry Division*
(HQ: Viet Tri, Phu Tho) 355th Infantry Division
406th Armored Brigade
82nd Infantry Brigade[1] Laos & Dien Bien Phu
th
168 Artillery Brigade
297th Air Defense Brigade
543th Engineer Brigade
604th Information Brigade
3rd Military Region (HQ: 350th Infantry Division
Kien An, Hai Phong) 395th Infantry Division
405th Armored Brigade
454th Artillery Brigade
214th Air Defense Brigade
513th Engineering Brigade
603rd Information Brigade
242nd Defense Brigade[2] Vân Đồn and Cô Tô
th th
4 Military Region 324 Infantry Division
(HQ:Vinh, Nghe An) 341st Infantry Division
968th Infantry Division
206th Armored Brigade
16th Artillery Brigade
283rd Air Defense Brigade
414th Engineer Brigade
80th Information Brigade
*Units marked are members of the original 6 “Steel and Iron” Divisions, the first six divisions of
the North Vietnamese Army. Because of their political importance, these units may be more likely to
receive newer equipment and upgrades, similar to ‘Guards’ units in the Russian system.

[1] The 82nd Brigade served in Laos for many years in support of the communist government
there. It’s current role seems to be defense/rapid response along the Laotian border; it may be kept at a
higher readiness level than other units in 2nd Military Region.

[2] The 242nd Defense Brigade is organized to defend the island districts of Vân Đồn and Cô Tô,
in the Tonkin Gulf. It may be equipped similarly to the 950th Defense Brigade (below).
5th Military Region (HQ: 2nd Infantry Division
Duy Tan, Da Nang) 305th Infantry Division
307th Infantry Division
315th Infantry Division
574th Armored Brigade
572nd Artillery Brigade
573rd Air Defense Brigade
270th Engineer Brigade*
280th Engineer Brigade*
7th Military Region (HQ: 5th Infantry Division
Phu Nhuan, TP. Ho Chi 302nd Infantry Division
Minh) 317th Infantry Division
26th Armored Brigade
75th Artillery Brigade
77th Air Defense Brigade
25th Engineer Brigade
23rd Information Brigade
9th Military Region (HQ: 4th Infantry Division
An Thoi, Can Tho) 8th Infantry Division
330th Infantry Division
416th Armored Brigade
6th Artillery Brigade
226th Air Defense Brigade
950th Defense Brigade[1] Phu Quoc
29th Information Brigade
25th Engineer Brigade
962nd Small Boat Brigade[2] Mekong River
Hanoi Capital Military 301st Infantry Division
Region (HQ: Pham
Hung, Cau Giay, Hanoi)
*It is unclear why this Military Region has two separate brigades of engineers

[1] The 950th Defense Brigade is organized to defend the island of Phu Quoc, off the coast of
Cambodia. It has at least one battalion equipped with amphibious tanks, and an expanded artillery unit
for coastal defense.

[2] The 962nd Small Boat Brigade operates a fleet of light riverine patrol craft, and wear navy
uniforms, despite technically being an army unit. They operate in the Mekong Delta.
People’s Self-Defense Forces & People’s Militia

The “People’s Self-Defense Forces” and “People’s Militia” are the reserve element of the Vietnamese
army. These units are organized around urban areas and rural areas, respectively, and are tasked with
local defense of these individual areas. They would also provide logistics and civil defense roles during a
military emergency. These units are given some combat training, but possess mostly light arms, with
limited machine guns and mortars, and are considered appropriate primarily for static defense and
guerilla action.

PSDF and Militia units are organized under the Provincial Military Commands (PMCs) of their individual
provinces, which are in turn subordinate to the Military Regions. During peacetime, PMCs maintain a
permanent staff, which vary in size from ~100 (for small/inland provinces) to up to 2,000 (for major
and/or border provinces). Wartime staffing runs at 5,000-15,000, organized as 2-4 regiments with
supporting units. The commander and commissar of a PMC generally have the rank of Colonel.

Within each PMC, the self-defense forces are subdivided into District Military Commands (DMCs). These
organizations coordinate defense activities within the district by coordinating with the self-defense
forces and militias of individual villages, factories, and neighborhoods. A DMC is typically commanded by
a Lieutenant Colonel, and is considered roughly equivalent to a regiment, with a peacetime staffing of
40-50 and a wartime organization of 2-3 infantry battalions.

Information on individual PMCs is difficult to find, and there is probably significant variation between
different provinces. As an example, the Ha Tinh Provincial Military Command is composed of 13
different District Military Commands, and is commanded by a Colonel. The population of the province is
roughly 1.2 million, and it covers an area of around 6,000 square kilometers, making it about average in
terms of both population and land area. Ha Tinh shares a border with Laos, which may increase the
number of personnel in its PMC relative to non-border provinces.
1st Military Region Cao Bang PMC
Bac Kan PMC
Lang Son PMC
Bac Giang PMC
Thai Nguyen PMC
Bac Ninh PMC
2nd Military Region Son La PMC
Dien Bien PMC
Lai Chau PMC
Lao Cai PMC
Yen Bai PMC
Ha Giang PMC
Tuyen Quang PMC
Phu Tho PMC
Vinh Phuc PMC
3rd Military Region Haiphong PMC
Quang Ninh PMC
Hung Yen PMC
Hai Duong PMC
Thai Binh PMC
Nam Dinh PMC
Ha Nam PMC
Ninh Binh PMC
Hoa Binh PMC
4th Military Region Thanh Hoa PMC
Nghe An PMC
Ha Tinh PMC
Quang Binh PMC
Quang Tri PMC
Thua Thien Hue PMC
5th Military Region (HQ: Da Nang PMC
Duy Tan, Da Nang) Quang Nam PMC
Quang Ngai PMC
Binh Dinh PMC
Phu Yen PMC
Khanh Hoa PMC
Kon Tum PMC
Gia Lai PMC
Dak Lak PMC
Dak Nong PMC
Ninh Thuan PMC
7th Military Region (HQ: Ho Chi Minh City Command[1]
Phu Nhuan, TP. Ho Chi Ba Ria Vung Tau PMC
Minh) Binh Duong PMC
Binh Phuoc PMC
Binh Thuan PMC
Dong Nai PMC
Tay Ninh PMC
Lam Dong PMC
Long An PMC
9th Military Region (HQ: Can Tho City PMC
An Thoi, Can Tho) An Giang PMC
Bac Lieu PMC
Ben Tre PMC
Ca Mau PMC
Dong Thap PMC
Hau Giang PMC
Kien Giang PMC
Soc Trang COM
Tien Giang PMC
Tra Vinh PMC
Vinh Long PMC
Hanoi Capital Military District Military Command
Region (HQ: Pham
Hung, Cau Giay, Hanoi)
[1] Ho Chi Minh City High Command is commanded by a Major General (rather than the
usual Colonel), which may indicate a larger formation, or may simply indicate a more prestigious
command.
Other Forces:

Vietnamese Special Forces (“Dac Cong”)

Vietnam’s Special Forces, or “Dac Cong,” are commanded centrally by Special Forces Command.
These units would be employed behind enemy lines to disrupt lines of supply, communications, and
other vulnerable infrastructure.

Special Forces 1st Special Forces Brigade


Command (HQ: Thanh 5th Special Forces Brigade
Tri, Hanoi) 113th Special Forces Brigade
198th Special Forces Brigade
439th Special Forces Brigade

Vietnamese Naval Infantry

Vietnam’s Navy has its own ground forces as well, variously translated as either Naval Infantry
or Marines (“Hải quân Đánh bộ”). While theoretically capable of amphibious operations, Vietnam’s lack
of modern landing craft would be a severe limiting factor. In practice, the Naval Infantry are primarily
employed to garrison Vietnam’s island holdings, including the disputed Spratly Islands. Vietnam’s Navy
also operates a brigade of naval special forces. It is unclear whether these forces are under Navy control,
or fall under PAVN Special Forces Command.

Navy Marine Corps 101st Naval Infantry Brigade


147th Naval Infantry Brigade
126th Navy Special Forces Brigade

Vietnamese Airborne Forces

While at one time there were Vietnamese airborne troops under the command of the Air Force,
these units appear to have been continuously reduced in size for budgetary reasons, and eventually
folded into the existing units of the Special Forces.

Defense Economics Divisions

Several divisions are listed as “defense economics divisions” (translation uncertain). These
divisions appear to be essentially military-owned companies. Confusingly, many of these divisions are
recorded as having participated in combat operation. It is my belief that this is due to their having been
formed by downgrading previous combat units, and that in their present form they have no direct
military function. Thus, “defense economics divisions” should not be considered military units – they are
more akin to military-owned companies.