Vietnam’s new-found submarine power and where it came from - VnExpress International

Vietnam’s Navy is now equipped with six powerful Kilo-class submarines, the last one arriving in January from Russia.

In December 2009, Vietnam inked a deal worth $2 billion with Russia to buy six Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines to strengthen its maritime forces. The contract, one of the largest in the history of Russian exports of naval equipment, also includes training programs for Vietnamese crew in Russia.

The country established a modern submarine fleet in 2013, after the first submarine named HQ-182 Hanoi was delivered.

Kilo-class submarines are among the most popular in the world. Algeria, China, India, Iran, Poland and Romania are among the countries that are using or have ordered them.

Phần 2The making of Vietnam’s Kilo-class submarines

Vietnam’s Kilo-class submarines were built at Admiralty Verfi, one of Russia’s oldest shipyards in Saint Petersburg, where more than 2,300 ships including armored and patrol vessels, and more than 300 submarines including nuclear submarines, have been built over its 313 years in operation.

Construction of the first submarine in the pack started in August 2010 and took two years to complete. The submarine has performed more than 100 successful trial journeys with 53 officers and crew members on board who trained for months in Russia.

The rest were built and launched over the next four years. They were named after Vietnam’s largest cities and important port locations Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

186 Da Nang’s trial run.

Phần 3Kilo-class 101

Kilo class submarines feature advanced stealth technology, extended combat range and ability to strike land, surface and underwater targets. The ships displace 3,100 tons, reach speeds of 20 knots, can dive to 300 meters with a range of 9,600 kilometers, and carry crews of 52 people over 45 days.

The submarines feature 533-milimeter torpedo tubes and are armed with torpedoes, mines and Kalibr 3M-54 (NATO SS-N-27 Sizzler) cruise missiles, mainly intended for anti-shipping and anti-submarine missions in relatively shallow waters.

Air-launched anti-ship 3M-54E/E1 missile

3M-54E missiles carry a 450-kilo (992-pound) warhead with a range of 220 kilometers, and are capable of destroying a large surface ship. The subsonic 3M-54E1 variant has a range of 300 kilometers.

Anti-submarine 91RE1/RE2 missile

The missiles have a 50-kilometer range, carry 76-kilo warheads and are designed to defeat modern and advanced submarines in all areas of the ocean, including in shallow depths.

Land attack 3M-14E missile

The missile is designed to destroy targets protected by sophisticated active air defenses and countermeasures and is capable of long-range precision strikes.

The attack power of a Kilo-class submarine

The Vietnamese fleet is an improved version of the Kilo class submarines, which can operate in shallow waters and can sail near the seabed more effectively than other submarines. With low noise emissions and visibility, the class has been labeled “black holes” by the U.S. Navy due to their quiet operations.

An illustration of how a Kilo-class missile can be launched and destroy a target ship.

Phần 4The distribution of the Vietnamese batch

  • December 31, 2013

    HQ-182 Hanoi

    The first Kilo-class submarine, HQ-182 Hanoi, arrived at Cam Ranh Port in the central province of Khanh Hoa, carried by the Dutch-registered Rolldock Sea.

  • March 22, 2014

    HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City

    The HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City was delivered to Cam Ranh. Construction of the submarine started a year after the first one. In July 2012, the submarine passed government-level inspections after two successful dives, one to 190 meters. A salvage tug and an ice breaker joined the journey which started in February 2014 and had to pass down nearly 1,000 kilometers of a frozen river.

  • January 31, 2015

    HQ-184 Hai Phong

    The HQ-184 Hai Phong arrived in Cam Ranh after a 43-day journey. The sub was launched in August 2013, delivered by the Rolldock Star.

  • July 2, 2015

    HQ-185 Khanh Hoa

    The HQ-185 Khanh Hoa arrived in Cam Ranh. Construction began in August 2013 and the sub was launched in March 2014, going through trials in the Baltic before delivery.

  • February 5, 2016

    HQ-186 Da Nang

    The HQ-186 Da Nang arrived in Cam Ranh, delivered by the Rolldock Star.

  • January 20, 2017

    HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau

    The last submarine in the batch, HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau, arrived in Cam Ranh.

Phần 5The submarine base

Cam Ranh Port, one of the biggest navy bases in Vietnam, is an ideal harbor for its modern submarine fleet. As a deep-water port sheltered from the winds, Cam Ranh is an ideal place to receive large ships and those that need to take refuge during stormy weather. The port is well connected with railways, roads and international marine routes, and is close to Cam Ranh International Airport.

Cam Ranh has been hailed by international experts as one of the best and most influential military bases in the world.

Phần 6The new power of Vietnam's Navy

The new Kilo-class submarines are registered under the 189 Submarine Brigade of the Navy Zone 4.

The new fleet, which marks a milestone in the development of Vietnam’s Navy, will join surface ships and guard ships to better perform patrol, surveillance and protection missions in Vietnamese waters.

On February 28, 2017, an official ceremony was held to showcase the two newest submarines HQ-186 Da Nang and HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who attended the event with other top government officials, said the modernization and development of Vietnam’s submarine and naval power is a normal process for any country with territorial waters.

The development is not a military race and is not a threat to countries in the region, but is merely here to increase the country's capability of protecting its waters and islands in any circumstances, he said.

Kilo-class submarine crew sing the national anthem.
Hoang Thuy - Hoang Phuong
Graphics: Viet Chung