Last week, the fifth of six Kilo-class submarines that Vietnam bought from Russia arrived in the Southeast Asian state, local media outlets reported.
According to Thanh Nien News, the HQ-186, delivered by Dutch-registered cargo ship Rolldock Star, arrived at Cam Ranh Bay in Khanh Hoa province last Tuesday evening. The submarine laid at anchor near Cam Ranh Port and was scheduled to arrive at the port thereafter.
As I reported for The Diplomat last year, the HQ-186 underwent a trial run in the Baltic Sea on June 8 and was expected to arrive in early 2016. The fourth submarine, codenamed HQ-185 Da Nang, arrived at Cam Ranh Port back in July (See: “Vietnam Gets Fourth Submarine From Russia Amid South China Sea Tensions”).
As I noted then, the submarines are 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 that year, Russia agreed to provide the submarines, train Vietnamese crews, and supply necessary spare parts.
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. Last year, Vietnamese officials said that the first Kilo-class submarine had begun patrolling the South China Sea.
The sixth and final submarine, named HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau, is expected to arrive in Vietnam in mid-2016. Russia officially launched HQ 187 in September last year in a ceremony attended by the commander of the Russian navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov and his Vietnamese counterpart Rear Admiral Pham Hoai Nam. The two had also reportedly discussed strengthening security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.
As I reported earlier, the Kilo-class submarines are 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.