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Vietnamese Soldiers Are Now Issued The Galil ACE

August 8, 2018

A VPA officer inspects a Galil ACE 31. Via QPVN

One of the largest militaries in Southeast Asia is replacing its Kalashnikov rifles with a newer model that isn’t Russian. The state-owned news agency QPVN has run multiple video clips showing members of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) inspecting rifles with magazines for the 7.62x39mm M43 round but have a distinct appearance far removed from any NATO infantry small arm.

In 2014 it was widely reported that an Israeli gun maker helped establish a factory to assemble its well-known Galil rifles under license. Apparently, the scope of the factory’s production was broader than expected and includes the Galil ACE 32, the Galil ACE 31, and the Micro Uzi.

The Galil ACE 32 and ACE 31 manufactured in Vietnam are both fed by Kalashnikov magazines and have side folding metal stocks. Whether or not these two small arms are given separate “local” names is unknown but they’re now being issued to Vietnamese soldiers. But many recent exercises involving the VPA show troops still carrying AK-47’s and AKM’s, which suggests adoption of the new rifle may take a while. Several years may pass before the entire army are equipped with Galil ACE 32’s since their numbers exceed a quarter million men and women.

If local militias, border security guards, and the police are factored in, the estimated Galil production figures could balloon unless these institutions keep their standard issue weapons.

Via QPVN.

Via QPVN.

Vietnam’s naval infantry, on the other hand, are issued the Tavor bullpup rifle that’s chambered for 5.56x45mm rounds and use NATO compliant magazines. The broad adoption of Israeli small arms in the VPA was inevitable considering the age of its current inventory. While state-owned factories know how to assemble the AK-47/AKM the Galil ACE offers better accuracy and superior ergonomics. The modernization of the country’s armed forces is also a long-term project and is reliant on localizing foreign technology.

The shift to a rifle that accepts Kalashnikov magazines forms part of an emerging trend in military procurement this decade. Since 2017 two former Soviet republics, Ukraine and then Azerbaijan, began switching to AR-pattern rifles chambered for Kalashnikov magazines. Meanwhile, in 2013 viral photos emerged from Kazakhstan showing elite military units with a Beretta ARX rifle using Kalashnikov magazines. The appeal of 7.62x39mm ammunition is its stopping power and its widespread availability.

The extent of Vietnam’s state-owned military industries is often overlooked even if these enterprises are eager to promote their catalogs. Aside from the Galil ACE–both its optics and underbarrel grenade launcher are locally made–the infantry weapons rolling off Vietnamese production lines are staggering. Copies of the single-shot M-79 grenade launcher are still made as well as a handheld light mortar and the RPG-7V2. The latter is a clone of the Soviet RPG but has a folding bipod underneath its muzzle.

Via QPVN.

Parts for the Galil ACE 31 and 32 are made in this factory using CNC machines. Via QPVN.

The larger locally made armaments available to the VPA ground forces span the 7.62mm PKM and 12.7mm NSV machine guns; the 105mm RPG-29 capable of destroying tanks with a single hit; and the 73mm SPG-9 recoilless rifle that’s the main platoon-level anti-armor weapon. Copies of a South African revolver-type grenade launcher and various mortars are produced in significant quantities as well. Even the VPA’s munitions seem to be sourced locally with large caliber rounds for anti-aircraft guns and howitzers stockpiled in warehouses.

It isn’t surprising to learn Myanmar and Vietnam maintain an understated alliance. In a contrast to the relative openness of Singapore and Malaysia, both countries have assembled sprawling military industrial sectors without attracting too much outside scrutiny.

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