Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
6 August 2015
On August 1, the Vietnamese Navy commissioned two new Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, according to Thanh Nien News.
The 184-Hai Phong and 185-Khanh Hoa were both commissioned during a ceremony held at Cam Ranh Naval in Khanh Hoa province, south of Hanoi.
The commander of the Vietnam People’s Navy, Rear Admiral Hoai Nam noted that this constituted “a major step of modernizing the Navy, and the People’s Army of Vietnam in general.”
He also emphasized that the acquisition of the two new vessels should not trigger a new arms race in the region or deter other countries but merely protect Vietnam’s sovereignty and help safeguard peace in the region.
The two new vessels will join the Submarine Brigade 189, which is already home to the Vietnam People’s Navy’s first two Kilo-class SSKs – the 182-Hanoi and 183-Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam is expected to field a fleet of six Kilo-class SSKs total.
Hanoi and Moscow signed a $ 2.6 billion contract for the modernization of Vietnam’s submarine fleet back in 2009 with the last two vessels to be delivered by 2016. The website naval-technology.com notes about the Type 636 Kilo-class:
Type 636 is designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface-ship warfare (ASuW) and also for general reconnaissance and patrol missions. The Type 636 submarine is considered to be to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world. It is said to be capable of detecting an enemy submarine at a range three to four times greater than it can be detected itself.
As I noted before (See: “Vietnam Buys Deadly New Missiles Capable of Hitting China”), once the last vessel is commissioned, Vietnam will have the most modern submarine force in all of Southeast Asia. Its principal purpose will be to act as a credible deterrent force to Chinese “adventurism” in Vietnam’s maritime domain.
What will make the new vessels particularly dangerous for the People’s Republic of China is that they will purportedly be equipped with land-attack cruise missiles.
“Vietnam is in the process of acquiring 50 anti-ship and land attack 3M-14E Klub supersonic cruise missiles for its burgeoning fleet of SSK Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines,” I noted back in April.
I also stated that “[w]hile it is unknown whether the anti-ship variant of the weapon sold to Vietnam is the 3M-54E Klub-S (range 220km) or 3M-54E1 (range 300km) – both of which can be launched from submarines – the land-attack variant is almost certainly the 3M-14E (range 300km), capable of carrying a 450kg warhead.”
The Chinese naval base at Sanya on China’s Hainan Island and military facilities that Beijing is building in the South China Sea could be potential targets for the newly acquired subs and their deadly missiles.