Vietnam is in the process of equipping its growing submarine fleet with land attack missiles that can hit China, according to recently updated data on the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s website, giving Hanoi a powerful deterrent that complicates Beijing’s strategic calculations in the South China Sea.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute obtained the data from a filing made last year by Vietnam to the United Nations’ conventional arms registry. Vietnam is already in possession of 28 Russian-made Klub supersonic cruise missiles and plans to acquire a total of 50.
Klubs can be used against ships and targets on land. The missiles, which will be fitted on Vietnam’s new Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, have a range of 300 km and could be used to strike cities in China and Chinese military installations in the South China Sea.
Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam’s military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, told Reuters that the move was a “massive shift” beyond more routine anti-ship tactics.
“They’ve given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China’s strategic calculations,” he said.
Vietnam signed a $2.6 billion contract with Russia in 2009 to modernize its submarine force, which included a deal for Moscow to provide Hanoi with six Kilo-class submarines. Vietnam is currently in possession of three Kilo-class submarines, with a fourth in transit and a fifth undergoing sea trials in Russia. The last Kilo-class submarine is due to be delivered in 2016, giving Vietnam the largest and most modern submarine fleet in Southeast Asia.
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