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Background Briefing: Vietnams Guided Missile Corvettes Carlyle A. Thayer January 27, 2012

[clientnamedeleted] ItisourunderstandingthattwoMolniya/Tarantulmissilecorvetteswillsoonbebuilt inVietnamwithRussianassistance.Vietnamcurrentlyhasnineofthesevessels,with afurther10onorder(includingthetwounderlocalconstruction).Sixofthoseten havebeenconfirmed,withoptionsonanotherfour.Insum,Vietnamhas19guidedl missilecorvettes.Whatisyourappreciation? ANSWER:ThefollowingareextractsfromamonographInwrotein2009: The Russian Federation remains Vietnams main source of sophisticated military equipment, a relationship that is unlikely change in the short term. In September 2008, for example, the Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov met with Vietnams visiting Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh and declared that the Russian Federation was ready to provide Vietnamese armed forces with arms and military hardware [and] to upgrade the existing Vietnamese armaments [ItarTass, Moscow, September 23, 2008]. Russian media reports at that time were upbeat aboutthepossibilitiesofnewarmscontractagreementsforjetaircraft,airdefence systems(includinglongrangeradar),navalships(missilepatrolboatsandcorvettes) and equipment, and assistance for a major modernization of Vietnams armour corps. Navyprocurement. Between19961999,VietnamreceivedfourmodifiedTarantul2typecorvettesfrom Russia. The ships were armed with twin launchers for the SSN2D Styx antiship missile,Iglasurfacetoairmissiles(SAMs),andadditionalguns. In March 2004, Vietnam signed an agreement for two Tarantul V (Project 1241.8) corvettes armed with SSN25 (Kh 35 Uran) missiles. The modified Tarantul V is sometimes referred to as Molniya; in Vietnam it is called HoA Class. They were deliveredinlate2007.

2 In 2005, Vietnam expressed interest in acquiring a package of four Gornikclass (Tarantul1)Polishcorvettes,twoofwhichhadrecentlybeendecommissioned.But Polishplanstopayofftheothertwocorvettesatalaterdateprovedtobeasticking point in further negotiations. Vietnam then reached agreement in December 2006 with Rosoboronexport (Russian Defence Exports) for the purchase of two Gepard class (Project 11661) guided missile frigates. This deal was estimated at U.S. $300 million.Theconstructionofbothfrigatescommencedin2007withdeliveryexpected inMarch2010forthefirstfrigateand2011forthesecond. Inearly2008VietnamandRussiasignedacontractforthedeliveryofseveralship buildingkitsandrelatedweaponssystemsfordomesticassemblyinVietnamsHong Ha shipyard. Reportedly the kits contain a mix of vessels for the navy and coast guard.ThecontractwasvaluedatU.S.$670million.RobertKarniolreportsthatthe 2008 deal with Russia may have followed the earlier cancellation of Vietnams contractwiththeUkraine(mentionedabove),duetodifferencesoverperformance [RobertKarniol,SlowadvanceforVietarmyrevamp,TheStraitsTimes,February9, 2008]. The Ukraine contract provided for twenty 400tonne patrol vessels but only sixwerebuilt More significantly, Vietnam has entered into coproduction arrangements with RussiatoassembleKBO2000corvettesandBPS500missilepatrolboats. Vietnam has assembled two BPS 500 (Project 12418) missile corvettes from a kit providedbyaRussiansupplier. Vietnam currently has plans to assemble eight Tarantul V (Molnya) missile frigates domestically.
SOURCE:CarlyleA.Thayer,VietnamPeoplesArmy:DevelopmentandModernization.ArmedForces Lecture Paper Series Paper No. 4. Bandar Seri Begawan: Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of DefenceandStrategicStudies,2009.

SUMMARY:InJanuary1999RussianannouncedthatVietnamhadplacedanorderto purchase two Project 1241RE (export) corvettes. The agreement to purchase additional Molniya/Tarantul corvettes and to produce them in Vietnam dates to 2004. My understanding is that Vietnam has purchased six Molniyas with the option to construct four more. If Vietnam already has two in hand from an earlier purchase (dating to 1999) that would make the total 12. The contract for construction, technicalassistance,maintenanceandsparepartsextendsto2016. CurrentlyVietnamhas11principalsurfacecombatants: 5Frigates(3PetyaIIs,2PetyaIIIsand 6Corvettes(4Tarantuls,2BPS500s[orMolniyaclass])

Vietnam has begun construction of four of the six Molniyna corvettes. Two have beenbuiltandarecurrentlybeingfitted.Thehullsoftheothertwohavebeenlaid.

3 The missile corvette is the Molniya Project 1241.8 and is being constructed in VietnamunderlicensefromVympelshipbuildingplant.Thiscorvettecarriessixteen of the more advanced Kh35 UranE system missiles. The Project 1241 carries only four MoskitE missiles. The Kh35 is an antiship cruise missile with a range of 130 km. I cannot confirm the figure of 19 Molniya/Tarantul corvettes. If we take the 11 corvettes already in Vietnam and add the six under contract this totals 17. If the optionof4isincluded,thisrisesto21.