Thursday, June 25, 2009

Project 17A of Indian Navy

I read this piece of news a few days ago and found it shocking. Here is the article:

India has cleared its largest ever indigenous defence contract worth Rs 45,000 crore to manufacture seven advanced stealth frigates for the Navy at shipyards in Kolkata and Mumbai.

The P17A warship project, which will be India’s most advanced and stealthy frigates, has been cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Friday.

Sources said that brushing aside a request by the Navy that two of the indigenously designed frigates may be manufactured abroad, the DAC has decided that all seven warships will be manufactured in India by the Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai (MDL) and the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata.

The Defence Ministry has allocated a budget of Rs 45,000 crore for the project and the work will be divided between the two shipyards. The P17A frigates will be even more advanced than the P17 Shivalik class warships that are currently being inducted by the Navy.

For those keeping scores at home, it's around $10 billion for 7 ships or around $1.4 billion per ship. This is an increase over the original announcement in 2006 that put the price tag of each ship at around $900 million. I think India has had some experiences recently with cost escalations in naval projects. They want to make sure to allocate all the necessary funding, so that it does not have cost overrun this time.

To put this into perspective:
A 054A costs around $200-250 million depending on the conversion rate.
I think Singapore paid $1 billion for 6 Formidable class ships back in early 2000s, although that only includes the ToT, weapon systems and the first unit.
The first batch of Talwar cost $1 billion for 3
The second batch of Talwar cost $1.6 billion for 3 (although a lot of that is due to USD depreciation)
The Project 17 Shivalik class apparently costs $650 million each
The most recent order of 4 FREMM class by Italy cost 1.4 billion EUR -> 350 million EUR per or about 500 million USD depending on the conversion we use.
The entire horizon class program cost around $4 billion for 4 ships
KDX-3 is around $900 million
The 6 Type-45 destroyers cost UK 6.46 billion pound, which is anywhere from 8 to 10 billion USD depending on the conversion rate.

It looks like the going rate for a modern stealthy frigate with medium range air defense and good ASW capabilities is around $500 million. The going rate for a larger AAW ship with area defense is around $1 to 1.5 billion.

With the price that India is willing to pay for these 7 ships, it should turn out to be a very capable ship. If you look at the specifications of Shivalik class, its weapon and sensor fit is similar to your average modern frigate like the La Fayette derivatives, Talwar and 054A. $650 million looks to be more than what the other countries paid for comparable frigates, but I think part of the cost goes toward improving Indian shipyard to be able to handle such projects in the future. With more than double the cost, Project 17A looks like it will be a whole different beast. Just looking at the price tag alone, it looks to be an AAW ship with long range SAM and Aegis like combat system. On the other hand, I kept reading Indian sources that said this ship will only be around 5600 ton in displacement. That would make sense because larger Project 17A class would intrude in the territories of Project 15A, which is in the 7000 ton range. Even now, it seems that Project 15A is really not that relevant when the smaller Project 17A might turn out to do the same job much better. So, I think it would be interesting to see what Project 17A turn out to be. If it turns out to be like Horizon class or AAW version of FREMM, it would be well worth the money after we factor in higher than projected inflation, cost of upgrading the shipyards, transfer of technology and such. However, if it turns out to just be a more powerful version of Project 17, I think they are really paying far too much for these ships.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Regarding the recent story about Russia helping Taiwan

In the past week, a really interesting article as shown below popped up and caused some heated discussions on different military forums.

Taipei - Taiwan plans to build its third-generation warplane with Russian technology as the United States has refused to sell Taiwan F-16C/Ds, a newspaper reported Friday.

The Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), which sent personnel to Russia for instruction from Russian experts, has finished designing the third-generation warplane, the China Times quoted an unnamed military official as saying.

The as-yet-unnamed third-generation warplane will have twin engines and be able to take off and land with a short airstrip, the official said.

During the design process, Taiwan and Russian experts studied the design of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the United States' most advanced fighter jet, but Taiwan's aircraft is shorter than the JSF, the military official said.

The paper said that Taiwan ordered 150 F-16A/Bs in 1992 to form its second-generation fleet, which also included 60 French Mirage 2000-5s and 130 self-made Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF).

To deter any possible attack from China, Taiwan has been seeking to buy the more advanced F-16C/Ds, or JSF, but Washington has turned down the request, agreeing only to upgrade Taiwan's F-16A/Bs. This prompted Taiwan to decide to build its own third-generation warplanes for self-defence, despite improved Taipei-Beijing ties.

Taiwan and China have been split since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and has vowed to recover Taiwan by force if Taipei declares independence or indefinitely delays holding unification talks with Beijing.

First, I thought everyone would simply laugh off this article. However, this article seemed to have gathered many believers. The majority of the believers are Russian fanboys that are incensed by China copying J-11B. They think that Russia should sell weapons to Taiwan, since it no longer gets what it needs from China. Therefore, it's a good idea to replace that export market with Taiwan. So, I think I will address this issue by looking at two different areas: why this story can't be true and how much copying is going on.

So, why can't this be true?
It has everything to do with politics/economics. Countries don't sell weapons to Taiwan, because they are worried about the political and economical ramifications rather than military exports. France, Germany, UK and Israel can't export to China, but they still refuse to deal with Taiwan. Recently, US received hell from China for the military package that Bush approved in 2008. All things considered, the package approved for Taiwan was actually very watered down. Even so, the hard time that China gave the Bush administration probably made the Obama administration think twice about selling F-16s there. After all, supplying 60 F-16s from 2012 to 2015 really isn't going to turn the balance of power in Taiwan straits, but that deal is basically off the table now. The military balance across the straits swung in PRC’s direction permanently earlier this decade. Future military exports to Taiwan will offend China more from a political rather than a military point of view. Simply put, China will look at any military exports to Taiwan as an insult to its sovereignty. The global economic downturn has accelerated China’s position in the world. At this point, it would be hard for countries needing China’s financial help to alienate it over Taiwan. For example, US doesn't want to aggravate the Taiwan situation when it needs China to keep on buying its treasury bonds and keeping interest rate low and inflation down.

Comparatively speaking, Russia is dealing from an even weaker position when dealing with China. The Russian leadership is looking to change the world financial system (like a new world order) with a new reserve currency that is not controlled by the US gov't. It wants to stop having to buy US treasuries and stop doing import/export deals in USD. Russia basically showed in the past week that it is looking for the BRIC countries as a major part of the new world order replacing the US led G-8. Clearly, China has by far the most leverage and economic muscle to support this new world order. Russia knows that none of its goals can be accomplished without China's full support. However, China has far more invested in US than the other BRIC countries (with the $2 trillion in US assets compared to $400 billion for Russia). It wants China to support the initiatives of buying gov't bonds from other BRIC countries, doing currency swaps, trading in local currencies and such. In each case, China's support can make or break the initiative. Finally, China’s financial support to SCO is also important, because it allows the gov’t there to continue their anti-West and pro-Russia/China policies.

On top of that, it has recently signed a huge energy cooperation agreement with China. As shown in the recent month, the energy/commodities market was basically rescued by a lot of demand from China. Since Russia's natural resources are its most important export, it needs continued Chinese demand to sustain spot prices for its exported resources. Think about it this way, oil and gas alone accounted for 64% of Russia's exports in 2007. If the remaining export remained the same and the average energy prices dropped 75% in one year (spot prices for oil dropped from over $150 a barrel to lower than $40 early this year), that would mean the Russian export would be 16% + 36 = 52% of last year's numbers. Now, if Chinese demand can more than double the energy prices (which it has in the past 3 months), then the export would take about a 30% hit instead of almost 50% hit from last year (although in reality, it doesn’t work like this, but you get an idea). So, you can see that the Chinese market not only affects Russia’s trade with China but also with Europe.

Finally, Russia and China have a lot of mutual goals and share a lot of common positions on international issues. I don’t think I need to go over the political cooperation between the two countries over the past couple of years. Clearly, Russia is not going to jeopardize its economic and political partnership with China just for a couple of new military contracts with Taiwan. The head of the states of the two countries met 3 times last week (once for BRIC, once for SCO and once as a state visit). Clearly, the relationship between the two countries is very good despite the recent declines in military sales and other issues like imbalance in the contents of trading. Having looked at all of these factors, it makes me wonder why certain people believe this kind of story so easily.

How much copying is really going on?

Reading through recent articles on Russian newspaper and Kanwa defense, I often spot articles where Russian defense firms complain about China copying its designs. It’s really hard for a normal person to get grip of how rampant this is unless you had a firm idea of the development process of certain weapon systems. Generally, Chinese military complex has a real innovation problem, so a lot of its recent designs look a lot like existing designs from other countries. Such comments have been made about the recent developments like HALE UAV from CAC (looks like Global hawk), HH-16 VLS (MK-41), KJ-200 radar (Erieye), KJ-2000 radar (Phalcon), FB-6A (Avenger), 093 (LA class), 054 hull (La Fayette), Type 730 (Goalkeeper), 052C FCRs (SPY-1D), Z-10 (Tiger, Rooivalk amongst others), LCAC and many more. China got some help from the respective parties in some cases, but also did not get help on majority of the cases. The Western countries (other than in the case of 022’s catamaran design) did not claim that China copied off them, because there was no way that China had access to those weapon systems. On the other hand, Russians claim that all the suspicious system that they did not work directly with China on must have been copied. In many cases, they say that China got the relevant blueprints from other former Soviet Republics.

The most famous case that it has complained about is J-11B, but that really is a case where the original licensed production/ToT deal hasn’t worked out as well as Sukhoi had hoped. Of the recent Chinese developments, weapon systems like the 76 mm naval gun, AK-630, L-15/CJ-7 trainer and heavy helicopter transport have all received proper ToT or assistance agreement, so Russia has no complaints over those systems. The recent Russian complaints have targeted HQ-9 missile, Yuan Submarine, WS-10A, J-10’s radar, sensors on 054A. I'm not a big follower of China's SAM programs, but it seems like Russia has a good point if it accuses China was copying S-300 (although the FCR of HQ-9 is a whole different animal). As for Yuan submarine, it is possible that China took some concepts from Kilo and applied it on Yuan, but it would be completely ridiculous to call it a copy. It has totally different dimensions, different engines, different sonar, different fire control system, different weaponry, different sail design + diving plane configuration, different limber hole configuration and other many other differences. And it really makes you wonder why China would copy Kilo, when it would rather keep them at dockside than sending them out on patrols like they are doing with the Song submarines. As for WS-10A, I think it's fair to say that China got a lot of assistance from the Russians on its development. However, turbofan engine is such a complex piece of work that without the right tools and machines used in AL-31F assembly lines, there is no way you can just straight out copy it. As for J-10s radar, that is probably one of the most ludicrous claims by the Russians. They think China copied the Zhuk series, because it obtained a few units of the radar in the early 2000s. But by that time, the original J-10's radar was already developed and under test on J-10. KLJ-3 (the first radar on J-10) was from a family of slotted array radar that had already appeared in the 90s (before even Zhuk-8 was offered). I've already explored in another entry the Russian claims on 054A.

There is also a list of upcoming projects like WS-13, WS-18 and large transport that could possibly be accused of copying Russia in the future. In the case of the engines, it's impossible for them to completely copy without the blueprints, materials, tools and machines needed to manufacture RD-93 and D-30KP2. However, there is no question that they will be very similar to their Russian counterpart. I think that the large transport could be the major point of contention between the two sides. If it turns out to look like IL-76 as many have speculated, it could send the Russian complaints to another level.

So in general, China has definitely copied some Russian weapons or at least drew inspiration from many other Russian weapon systems, but I think many of the Russian complaints are directed at the wrong systems. For example, they complain about J-11B and Yuan the most, because China has stopped buying fighter jets and submarines from them. But in reality, there are far more serious cases of violation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Up close photos of a 054A

I saw these really quality up close photos of 054A on the different sensors and weapons, so I decided to post them.
Type 730 CIWS

Decoy Launchers

The 76 mm main gun, based on AK-176M

The Main Volume Search Radar - Sea Eagle Radar

The satcom - I mighty be wrong on this one

The FCRs used to terminally guide HH-16 - Similar to Orekh

The Sensors on the Aftmast including SR-64 and Light bulb datalink

SR-64 - works well with Type 730 CIWS in tracking/engaging sea-skimming missiles

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Remembering June 4th

As we just passed the 20th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown on the TianAnMen Square protests (aka LiuSi to Chinese people), a common question is what do we really know about the events of that time?

A bombshell came out a month ago regarding the memoir of the depose leader Zhao ZiYang. For those who don't know who he is, he was the most prominent voice for the student protestors in the Politburo at that time. He tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the rest of the Politburo Standing Commitee from sending in the troops against the students and was later sacked and spent the remaining years of his life under state supervision. I think of all the major players in the entire crackdown, he and Wang Dan are the only ones that I truly deeply respect.

For those who don't know, most of the leaders from the student protests used their status to flow to Western countries instead of sharing the pains of other protestors. Now a lot of them live as political refugee in America, get paid to say bad things about the Chinese gov't, but they never even try to go into China to fight for democracy. Wang Dan on the other hand did not use his status to flee to America, but rather served his part of his sentence in China. He continued to fight for the rights of workers and oridnary folks until he was kicked out of the country. And of course, much of the leadership at that time were a bunch of cowards. They would rather send soldiers against their own citizens rather than taking back statements they made, because they feared that looking weak would jeopardize their careers.

A while ago, a man in my College Christian fellowship shared with me what happened in those protests. In 1989, student protests were happening across the country. Many university students got involved and my friend was involved in the one in Wuhan. I think he was later arrested and went to jail for a couple of weeks before being released. Or as he called it "he learnt his lessons". He was had a friend that was a leader in the protests from his university who later got arrested and jailed for 3 months. Anyhow, he mentioned some really interesting points:

1) The demonstration was probably at its highest point in mid May. I think he mentioned there was probably a million people gathered up to do the protests. A lot of them weren't even students, they were just there because it was like a big party.

2) He also mentioned that a lot of students were idealistic back then and really wanted to do this, but a lot were also just in it for the adventurous. In fact, part of the reason he got involved was for the excitement. He did crazy things like tying himself to a railroad on one of the most frequented railway bridges to prevent trains from passing.

3) After the martial law was imposed in May 20th, the gov't basically told the students that they were coming in and the military orders was to disperse the students and get inside to Tiananmen square by June 4th. And so starting in late May, the troops were moving in closer and closer everyday.

4) By June 3rd, a lot of people had actually left. And I think late that evening, they flickered the lights in Tiananmen square. Basically saying that this is your last chance to get out before the troops are coming in. By this time, a lot of students knew bad things were going to happen, so they left already. And a lot of people who were there were just ordinary citizens who really weren't that well educated, so they might not have been even aware even up to this point what was going on.

5) So when the troops moved in, there were basically two groups. One is the circling group that was moving in from the outside. And the second is the group of soldiers came out from the Great hall of the people. A lot of protesters were stunned by this because they really weren't prepared for this second group.

6) So according to my friend, the soldiers initially were firing up to try to scare away the crowd, because those who stayed behind really weren't looking to just disperse and go away. But what happened was some of the shots ended up getting deflected and hit some people in the crowd. And then, the protestors thought the soldiers were just firing indiscriminately at them, so then they started to fight back. And the soldiers fought back (in previous days, some soldiers had been killed by students, because they still weren't allowed to fire at students) by firing at the students. This is probably when most of the deaths happened.

So, looking back and to the present, there are a lot of questions we can ask:

Can something like this ever happen again if there are a lot of social problems as in 1989?
I really don't think so. A lot of really extraordinary circumstances caused what happened. At that time, the police in China weren't equipped to properly handle/disperse crowds, so they had to get soldiers to shoot at people. They now have modern equipments to break up a large protest if needed. They are so much better at containing the size of protests now (whether through harassment or bribing). The other part is that future protest leaders would know when the regime has reached the final straw and would withdraw the protesters before then. The protesters themselves would also know when they must leave.

Is China less free now than it was back in 1989?
The answer is no and anyone that suggests otherwise really have no clue what is going on in the country. I think over the past 20 years, you are starting to see ordinary citizens getting more freedom/rights from the gov't. Once people get certain rights, it's really impossible for the gov't to take that rights away. All of the internet clamp downs in the recent times only indicates how much less control the gov't has. 20 years ago, it wouldn't even have to worry about people seeking those rights. A year ago, a Shanghai community successfully stopped a gov't project to build a maglev line close to their neighbourhood by protesting as a group. Also in Sichuan, one family finally managed to defy the local gov't for accepting what it deemed an unfair resettlement package. Even though there are still plenty of corruption/abuse of power in the country, the public is fighting for its rights and winning in many of those battles. Basically, as long as you don't try to assemble a huge group of people to change the gov't, they will leave you alone. If you look at the people that signed Charter 08, nothing happened to most of the them.

Do people know about what happened in 1989?
Speaking for my generation (those who were in elementary/middle school during that time), I think most of us would know something like this happened, but would not know how bad it was. We would know that there were large student protests around the country, that soldiers and students collided, but we wouldn't know that soldiers killed a lot of students. For those younger than my generation (those born after 85), I would think most of them would have very little idea of what happened. For rest of the population (especially for those between 40 and 50), June 4th still likely remain as one of the landmark events of their lives. Most of the students/teachers in college at that time either participated or knew people that did participate.

What do those students feel about it now?
I think there is a huge divergent of opinions here. Those that were there the night the soldiers moved in are probably the ones that are still the most angry toward the regime. The students that participated in other cities or left before June 4th have generally accepted the events. There is a general feeling that a lot of them were caught up in the moment and were very naive about the world. The friend that I'm quoting here felt that he was going through an adventure, did a lot of foolish/non-pragmatic things that he would never do later. After he and some others got arrested and jailed for one or two months, they pretty much lost any ideals that they had after they came out. There are definitely still some students that have the ideals and want to fight on, but most of the students were never that ideal to begin with. They had certain grievances to air out and student protests were the fashionable thing to do during that 1 month. Most of that generation are also the people that have benefited the most from the economic growth of the past 20 years, so they have mostly accepted the regime and try to work within it.

What kind of regime is China really?
The simple answer to that is Authoritarianism, but I think that's way too simple. It certainly is in no way socialist and communist. One of my best firend has called China the most successful facist regime in the history and that's true in many ways if you look at how China is right now and what facism really means. If you look at its pro-business/pro-growth public policies, it is probably one of the most fiscally conservative, right wing gov't out there. Recently, I feel like it's more of a Utilitarianist gov't. In many ways, there is almost an implicit hand shake between the majority or at least the most vocal/influential part of the population (lead by the intellectuals, job holding city-dwellers, wealthy elites, CCP members) and gov't that "don't cause any big trouble and we will all get rich and you will be left alone". And looking at Chinese history, this huge group of people probably have never been more free and have more rights. Of course, there is also the minority that gets "shafted" and are quite bitter to the government. This group consists of mostly ethnic groups that fail to assimilate with Han majority, the migrant workers (although they have slowly come out here), the rural folks who are ripped of by land seizures, and the marginalized members of a society. Their lives most likely haven't improved at all through this economic boom. That's why even though there are a lot of protests around the country, the gov't actually has very strong support amongst the majority of the population. And you see Chinese leaders acting more than ever like Western politicians to maintain support at home.

Will there be democracy in China?
This really is a hard question, because a lot of the reforms are dependent on the members of PSC. When Jiang Zemin was in power, he instituted some elementary forms of democracy. For the past few years, China has had village level elections, although there have been some accusations of rigged voting. But generally speaking, the village level elections have certainly elected some leaders who otherwise would never gotten to their position. A couple of years ago, Premier Wen Jiabao also talked about setting up municipal level elections across the country. Although, it's not known how long that would take to set up and whether or not it will be nationwide. The next generation of leaders like Xi Jinping is likely to be more reform minded than Hu Jintao, because he was the party chief at more liberal areas like Zhejiang and Shanghai before being promoted to PSC. Hu Jintao turned out to be very stubborn to reforms, probably because he was the Party chief at more backward areas like Gansu and Tibet. So, there are some cause for optimism, although seeing Western style multi-party free election is unlikely to happen in the near future. It's more likely to see voting between one faction of the communist party and another faction. And I think at immediate time, most people in China just wants to see less corruption in government and a stronger rule of law in their personal lives.

In the end, I feel that the tragedy of the entire event was how easily it could have been prevented. If the PSC members weren't so out of touch with some of the people's grievances at that time, they wouldn't have angered the students more with their comment. If PSC members weren't so concerned with looking strong in front of Deng, they could have stopped the martial law from declaring and the soldiers from moving in. If the student leaders at that time had realized the severity of the issue, they should've taken it upon themselves to persuade the protesters to disperse. Looking back now, it should have been clear to the student leaders that the army had a military order to disperse everyone from TianAnMen Square by June 4th using whatever method necessary. Would the students have resisted the soldiers in the beginning like they did had they realized that the soldiers were allowed to fire back this time. Remember that in the earlier days of martial law, soldiers weren't allowed to fire, so several of them were burnt to death by student retaliation. And worst of all, if they only had riot police trained with how to disperse a crowd, they could have done with much less damage.

Since LiuSi, CCP has certainly learnt a lot on how to deal with possible troubles. It has essentially given itself quite the long life line by becoming very sophisticated at dealing with those who might form a protest. Democracy is certainly no where near on the top of wanted list for Chinese public. However, CCP will have to keep on raising living standards, improving the level of corruption, giving more rights to individuals by maintaining the rule of law and fighting other big issues like environment degradation and product safety in order to keep the population satisfied. Some people say that if CCP caved to the students in 1989, China would not only have achieved the economic success of the past 20 years but also progressed much further in terms of personal freedom and human rights. Others say that China would've been a more free country, but would not have achieved the same level of economic success. The truth is that nobody can know for sure, but CCP certainly has done a pretty good job in past 20 years. Will CCP eventually come out and apologize and own up for what it did in 1989? I certainly think it is possible in the future as the Chinese society becomes more free and the leadership becomes more liberal to changes. Maybe then, those who suffered in LiuSi would receive the anti-dote for their years of pain.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vietnam People's Navy + Kilo subs

Recently, the Vietnamese put in a huge order for 6 kilo submarines for $1.8 billion. After this, I read some articles like this one that claims Vietnam is sending China a message with this purchase. This blog will attempt to look at the recent competition between China and Vietnam over South China Sea.

I will try to give you guys an overview of the conflict between Vietnam and China. However, I'm far from an expert in this area, so please do excuse me if I'm wrong in certain areas. After Vietnam War, China's relationship with Vietnam deteriorated dramatically declined and Vietnam joined in Soviet Union's encirclement of China. In order to teach Vietnam a lesson, China invaded Vietnam in 1979 and suffered huge casualty, but did teach Vietnam a lesson. Then in 1988, they had a minor naval battle over the disputed islands in Spratly. Basically to this day, the two countries still have disputes over ownership of the islands and control of South China Sea. In spite of their growing economic relationship in the recent years, the tension shown through nationalism in the two countries have never really subsided.

Unfortunately for Vietnam, the military balance has tilted significantly toward China since 1988. Back then, PLA only had several Ludas and Jianghu as its main surface combatants in the South Sea Fleet and the air force couldn't support any of its operations in 1988. In fact, they developed a refueling version of H-6 after 1988 specifically to support future operations over there. 20 years later, SSF is the crown jewel of PLAN's modernization effort and also could be supported by the air force with the new fleet of refuelers. So, what has Vietnam done to improve itself in the recent years.

It has pretty much went with Russian weapons over the past decade. The problem that Vietnam has is that its area of dispute is close enough to China that it will have to deal with both China's air force and navy in any confrontation. Countries further south like Singapore, Malaysia and Australia both far larger threat to PLAN, because PLAAF simply can't fly that far. With a military budget of $3.6 billion and troubles in economy, Vietnam obviously realizes that it can't compete with PLA. So, it's actually adopting the same strategy that PLAN is supposedly adopting against USN. Basically, Vietnam is trying to buy a lot small, fast ships equipped with long range missiles (and nothing else much to offer) + quiet submarines. Of course with it's limited resource, the scale that Vietnam can implement this is much smaller than what China can. In the recent years, they've ordered a number of Project 12418 Molniya missile patrol boat, fitted with the Uran AShM, from the Russians. This gives them a fast attacking missile boat that can launch many missiles, so I guess it serves the role of 022 in PLAN. Although in comparison, it is larger, slower, less stealthy and not as network centralized. They also ordered 2 Project 1166.1 "Gepard" corvettes (and possibly more in the future), which have some level of self defense and also carrying more AshM. I believe Vietnam also bought some Yakhont missiles from Russia, but I'm not sure which platform will be deployed with this extremely potent missile. Vietnam also recently ordered for 12 Su-30MK2s from Russia which will be able to carry a range of advanced AAMs and AShMs. I think this is on top of the 12 Su-27s and 4 Su-30MK2s it already purchased from Russia. Although, I haven't found any article indicating how much weapons it purchased along with the fighter jets. And finally, Vietnam made the huge purchase of 6 kilo submarines, which also would theoretically provide a huge threat for PLAN surface combatants.

The Su-30 and Kilo deals were struck very close to each other, so it created a lot of speculation that Vietnam was challenging China in the South China Sea. I would agree that Vietnam is making a serious attempt to stick up for itself, but that its efforts really are more for display than anything else. I'm extremely critical of their deal for the 6 kilo submarines. For a navy that basically has no training with submarine up to this point, it will take a lot of resources to train the crew needed for the submarines. On top of this, I find it puzzling that Vietnam would go for Kilo, when a smaller number of more advanced submarines like U-214, Scorpene and Amur would be far better choices (I'm not sure if there is a EU embargo on Vietnam or not). China has been operating, doing maintenance/upgrade and conducting ASW exercises against Kilo submarines for years, so it would probably have an easier time hunting down Kilo than a submarine of the same generation. In PLAN service, Kilo submarines also are seen much less frequently on patrols and much more frequently in shipyards undergoing maintenance/overhaul work than Song Submarines. Even the much talked about Club missile was not test launched until a year and half after most of the kilos were delivered to China. Clearly, PLAN found it much easier to operate Song submarines than Kilos. I'm not sure if that's just PLAN's preference or a general availability problem with Kilo submarines. I think purchasing something like SU-30MK2 makes a lot of sense for Vietnam, because of Su-30's range and long range strike capability. Although, I do think su-30 is over-hyped and not as potent as some people may think.

Overall, Vietnam certainly made a lot of improvements recently with all of its purchases from Russia. The systems they purchased are heavily geared toward ASuW. Their strategy is similar to what PLAN is adopting against USN. Unfortunately, their most advanced weapons like Su-30 and Kilo are also in service with PLA, which would reduce the effectiveness against their intended foe. Basically, China has operated these weapons long enough to know how best to counter them. If possible, I think Vietnam should diversify its purchases away from just Russia.