The fourth of six Kilo-class submarines Vietnam bought from Russia arrived on Tuesday amid continued tensions in the South China Sea, local media sources reported.
According to Thanh Nien News, the submarine, codenamed HQ-185 Da Nang, arrived at Cam Ranh Port in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa on Tuesday morning transported by the Dutch-registered cargo ship Rolldock Storm. It was part of a deal Vietnam reached with Russia’s Admiralty Shipyards for six Project 636 Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines for $2 billion back in 2009. Under the agreement, signed during Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to Moscow, Russia agreed to provide the submarines, train Vietnamese crews and supply necessary spare parts.
The HQ-185 was reportedly launched on March 28, 2014 at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, Russia, and had a trial run on the Baltic Sea. It set sail for Vietnam in the middle of May this year.
The remaining two submarines are expected to be delivered to Vietnam by 2016. The fifth, codenamed HQ-186 Khanh Hoa, underwent a trial run in the Baltic Sea on June 8.
The latest delivery comes amidst simmering disputes in the South China Sea, where both Vietnam and China are claimants alongside the Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. In just this month alone, Vietnamese fishing craft have clashed with Chinese boats near the disputed Paracel Islands, while reports last week indicated that Beijing had redeployed an oil rig near contested waters. On Tuesday, China also announced that its some of its land reclamation projects had been completed, and that the focus would now shift to the construction of facilities on these features, which, as I emphasized previously, would also include military equipment (See: “The Truth About China’s South China Sea Land Reclamation Announcement“).
The Kilo-class submarines are some considered to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world, and are designed for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface-ship warfare. Several analysts, including Carlyle Thayer at The Diplomat, have explored how Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) may use them to counter Chinese naval capabilities in the South China Sea.