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Vietnam Is Serious About Exporting Its Military Products

December 23, 2018

Via Vietnamese state media.

A remarkable appearance at IndoDefence 2018 in November were a handful of Vietnamese companies displaying arms and equipment. The largest tri-service military exhibition in Indonesia was dominated by Western firms but there was serious participation from regional ones as well. Despite having a self-sufficient military-industrial sector, Vietnam has never promoted a serious export policy for weapons and other war material. Judging by the small pavilion from IndoDefence 2018, however, this may soon change.

Vietnam’s exposure in Jakarta was divided into five sections. These were for drones and surveillance technology, battlefield communications equipment, offshore patrol craft and bespoke ships, small arms and ammunition, and thermal optics.

It wasn’t surprising how Vietnamese small arms garnered the most attention. On display at a single booth were a dozen models, including a .303 Lee Enfield and an M79 grenade launcher. It seems three types of assault rifles are export-ready too. These are the AKMS-47 with its familiar underfolding metal stock; long and short variants of the Israeli Galil Ace 32 licensed to a state-owned factory; and new Kalashnikov-pattern rifles that incorporated the lower receivers and folding stocks of the Galils. Although no arms deals involving Vietnamese manufacturers were announced at IndoDefence 2018 it isn’t far-fetched to expect sales in the future.

Indonesia’s powerful military do prefer NATO firearms but elite units and the national police are very familiar with Kalashnikov-pattern weapons. A short video clip broadcast by Vietnam’s official military TV channel showed the defense minister of the Philippines praising Vietnam’s advances is mass-producing its own military equipment.

Via Vietnamese state media.

A collection of exotic armaments were added to the Vietnamese catalog displayed at IndoDefence 2018. A real standout was a 50mm “knee mortar” copied from a World War 2 grenade launcher used by the Japanese army. A submachinegun with a helical magazine was mounted on a corner and, remarkably, a 12.7mm anti-material rifle (copied from the Russian OSV-96) was shown next to a revolver type grenade launcher (copied from the South African Milkor MGL). Large caliber weaponry such as mortars and a 73mm recoilless rifle were lumped in a corner of the same booth.

Another revelation at IndoDefence 2018 were the short-range UAVs at the same Vietnamese pavilion. It turns out Vietnam has gone farther than other ASEAN militaries and produced a VTOL twin-boom drone able to scan terrain and loiter above specific areas. This is a significant leap in a region where UAV acquisitions remains sluggish–even Chinese drones haven’t enjoyed strong demand–and the addition of export-ready drones raises Vietnam’s bonafides as a technology leader.

But Vietnam’s military-industries remain far behind those of emerging powers across Asia. Little progress is being made in either aerospace and vehicular assembly although state-owned laboratories are believed to possess the know-how for assembling cruise missiles. This may change in the decade to come since Delhi and Hanoi have established multiple joint ventures for localizing Indian dual-use technology. Various military cooperation agreement with partners across Asia and Europe are now in place. When combined with its rapid industrialization,Vietnam looks poised to emerge as one of Southeast Asia’s stronger countries.

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