AINonline’s recent article regarding the US. embargo lift with Vietnam highlighted IKHANA’s modification work on the Vietnam Navy’s Twin Otter fleet.

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U.S. Lifts Arms Embargo on Vietnam

 – May 26, 2016, 8:27 AM


President Barack Obama lifted a decades-old U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam during a visit to the country this week. The move comes as the U.S. is supporting Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations in the increasingly bitter conflict with China over sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Vietnam has significantly boosted its defense budget in recent times, from less than $1 billion (U.S.) in 2004 to $3.4 billion (U.S) in 2013, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, although its spending on defense as a percentage of gross domestic product has remained relatively constant at just over 2 percent. Vietnam’s military is still equipped mainly with aging Soviet/Russian hardware, but that is starting to change. Western equipment is slowly starting to make its way into the Vietnamese inventory.

While the lifting of the U.S. arms embargo is unlikely to result in major arms deals with American companies, it does open the possibility of Vietnam acquiring refurbished equipment under the U.S. Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. Reports suggest that Vietnam wants to acquire older Lockheed Martin F-16s now stored at the boneyard in Arizona. This would follow Indonesia’s recent acquisition of F-16C/Ds, which were ex-USAF Block 25 aircraft upgraded to Block 52 standard. However, it is more likely that Vietnam will be more interested in fulfilling requirements that traditional supplier Russia may struggle to meet.

Chief among these is a need for maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). Vietnam is keen to improve its maritime and air domain awareness in light of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, which has included reclaiming land and building structures and airbases on disputed reefs and sending an oil exploration rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam.

The Vietnamese military operates six  DHC-6 Twin Otters delivered from 2014, three of which are in the Guardian 400 maritime surveillance configuration. They are equipped with the IAI-Elta EL/M-2022 maritime radar system and MiniPOP day/night Electro-Optical turret and were modified by Ikhana Aircraft Services in Murrieta, Calif.

There is a need for a more capable MPA, however, and defense industry sources have reported that Vietnam could seek refurbished Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions. Another possible candidate is the MPA/ASW Airbus Military C295 Persuader, which is already in service with Portugal and Chile.

Vietnam already operates three C295 transports, and the prospect of rationalization of its airlifters and MPAs would be appealing to a country of limited means. Airbus Military is also developing an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) version of the C295, with a rotodome housing an IAI-Elta active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and integrated identification friend or foe (IFF), which could be of interest to Vietnam.