The Vietnamese People's Army (VNA) is one of the most numerous in Southeast Asia and is second only to individual developed countries in the region in terms of overall potential. This lag is due to several main factors. First of all, this is outdated materiel in all types of armed forces, the timely and full-scale renewal of which is impossible.
According to The Military Balance 2021, the total strength of the Military Army currently exceeds 480. In addition, there is a reserve of approx. 5 million people Thus, in terms of the number of military personnel and reservists, Vietnam is second only to China, India, Indonesia and Thailand in its region.
In the current Global Firepower rating, Vietnam is ranked 24th with a score of 0,4189. This is significantly lower than the positions of China, India or Indonesia, but two lines higher than Thailand. It is noteworthy that in this rating the VNA bypasses the armed forces of many European states, incl. with a more developed economy and industry.
Tanks T-55 after local modernization, 2012 Photo Armyrecognition.com
Last year, Vietnam's defense budget reached VND 133 trillion (approx. US $ 5,68 billion). This is less than 1,7% of the gross domestic product. In 2019, 121 trillion dongs, or 1,6% of GDP, were allocated for defense needs. As practice shows, such a level of military spending allows maintaining indicators at the current level, but imposes serious restrictions on further development.
The basis of the VNA is the ground forces, including the so-called. The main forces (the army itself), Local forces and the People's Self-Defense Forces (various kinds of militias). Also, the armed forces include the Navy with the Marine Corps, Air Force and Air Defense Forces, coastal and border guards. All types of armed forces in general have an equal level of development of weapons and equipment. In the ranks there are modern samples of the main classes, but in quantitative terms, the basis of the weapons system remains outdated products.
The ground forces are the most numerous component of the VNA - more than 410 thousand people. They are divided between eight military districts and include a large number of different units and formations. All major branches of the armed forces are available, but their general capabilities are limited.
The situation with tanks demonstrates the characteristic problems of the VNA. In total, VNA has approx. 1400 cars of various models. Almost 1200 units. - Soviet-made T-54/55 and their Chinese counterparts "Type 59". In addition, a number of outdated T-34s remain in service (in training and coastal units). The newest are the T-90S of modern construction, but their purchases have so far been limited to 64 vehicles.
A similar situation is observed in protected infantry vehicles. Against the background of archaic BTR-152, BTR-50 or M113, even BMP-1/2 look like progressive and modern technology. At the same time, the number of obsolete armored personnel carriers exceeds 1100-1200 units, while the total BMP fleet is three times less.
Rocket forces and artillery still rely on towed systems - approx. 2300 dmg. different types and calibers. Self-propelled artillery is represented by 60-70 Soviet-made installations. There are also more than 700 multiple launch rocket systems, incl. 350 Grad products. Older self-propelled MLRS were sent for storage. Several 9K75 launchers have been retained.
One of the S-300PMU1 launchers received in the recent past. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Vietnam
Military air defense has a characteristic appearance. It retains several thousand towed machine-gun and cannon installations of all the main "Soviet" calibers. There are also self-propelled guns "Shilka". More modern weapons are represented by Soviet and Russian-made MANPADS.
In recent decades, the VNA has taken noticeable measures to update the naval personnel of the Navy. The result was the emergence of modern submarines and surface ships with shock weapons, as well as an increase in combat effectiveness fleet... At the same time, a significant number of obsolete types of pennants remain in the combat composition, incl. in need of replacement.
The main and most expensive step in the modernization of the Navy was the purchase of Russian-built diesel-electric submarines, project 636, as well as the preparation of infrastructure for their operation. In 2014-17. The VNA fleet received six such ships, which occupied a special place in naval strategy.
In 2011 and 2018. Vietnam received two pairs of 11661E patrol boats. The possibility of building two more such ships was discussed. The received patrols, independently or together with other combat units, can operate in the near and far sea zones - and display the Vietnam flag in the disputed areas of the Pacific Ocean. At the same time, the presence of modern missile and artillery weapons makes such a demonstration more convincing.
The rest of the surface fleet is represented by ships and boats for various purposes of relatively large age. In the ranks there are 5 patrol boats of the Soviet pr. 159, various missile and artillery boats, landing boats, etc. Thus, of the 75 pennants of the surface forces, only a few can be considered modern and relevant to current requirements.
To solve the existing problems, a modernization program is being implemented from 2018, calculated until 2025. It provides for the reorganization of the structure of the Navy, the modernization of existing ships and the acquisition of new ones, etc. In the more distant future, it is planned to increase the number of surface forces.
Air Force and Air Defense
Renewal of the Air Force has also been one of the main goals of military development in recent decades. Thanks to this, it was possible to obtain not the most numerous, but modern and effective combat Aviation... An attempt was also made to renew the fleet of training aircraft. Other sectors were modernized whenever possible.
The Air Force retains 26 outdated Su-22 fighters of several modifications, but there are also newer Su-27s - 11 units, incl. combat training. In recent years, a fleet of 35 modern Su-30MK2 fighters has been created. In the near future, a major update is awaiting combat training aircraft. There is an order for 12 Yak-130 aircraft, which will be able to supplement and then replace the old L-39s.
Transport aviation is built on Soviet and Russian-made equipment, mostly of old types. For example, An-2 is still in operation. The helicopter fleet mainly consists of Mi-8/17 of different years of construction. At the same time, there are transport aircraft and helicopters of European and American production.
The basis of the country's air defense is 12 S-300PMU1 systems. Delivery of Israeli Spyder-MR is expected in the near future. Also, the outdated S-75 and S-125 are still in service. As in the military air defense, there are artillery systems of different calibers, including. self-propelled.
Constraints and development
The main problem of the Vietnamese armed forces at the moment is the high percentage of obsolete models, which imposes serious restrictions on the possible level of potential and defense capability. At the same time, the military and political leadership of the country is well aware of this and is taking the necessary measures.
In 2019, a new "White Book" was adopted, defining the main ways of military organizational development and development of the military aviation. Also, several different kinds of rearmament programs have been launched, both in accordance with the White Paper and before its appearance. It is expected that in the medium and long term they will give a noticeable result, and by the beginning of the thirties the appearance of the VNA will change significantly.
However, the rapid and complete achievement of such results continues to be hampered by several inherent factors. Thus, the defense budget of Vietnam has only recently reached the level of 1,6-1,7 percent. from GDP, which is not enough for a quick and high-quality rearmament. This issue is further complicated by import dependency. Own production capabilities are limited, and the creation of entire industries within a reasonable time frame is simply impossible.
The states-producers of weapons and equipment take into account all these circumstances and are already offering their products to Vietnam. At any time, there may be new messages about the purchase of certain foreign products. It is very likely that some of these orders will be received by Russian enterprises, which will be facilitated by the countries' long-standing military-technical ties and extensive experience in operating our samples.
Thus, at the moment, the general condition of the material part of the VNA leaves much to be desired. It threatens the general defense capability and the ability to fully resist the likely adversaries of its region. However, according to the strength and capabilities, the necessary steps are being taken. How effective they will be - especially given the fact that other countries are not going to stand still - time will tell.