While the lifting of the US arms embargo on Vietnam may have led some to believe there would be an immediate rush to purchase US hardware, Hanoi seems more interested in acquiring weaponry from Japan instead
. Kawasaki Heavy Industries's P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, a license built version of the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion
, is currently being swapped out for the newer indigenous P-1
and offers a cheaper alternative to getting them second-hand from Lockheed Martin. Another advantage Vietnam hopes to tap into is Japan’s expertise in operating the P-3. The JMSDF has deployed its P-3s to Danang, Vietnam for exercises, and the Vietnamese have experience working with Japanese crew.
In April 2009, reports surfaced that Vietnam had agreed in principle to a deal with Russia for 6 of its diesel-electric Kilo/ Project 636 Class fast attack submarines. By December 2009, it was an inflection-point deal for a capability that Vietnam has never had before. By November 2013, the new submarines had begun to arrive.
Nor is that the only change in Vietnam’s military capabilities these days, courtesy of their long-standing relationship with Russia. There have been some outside deals for items like maritime surveillance floatplanes, and a Dutch deal will provide high-end frigates. For the most part, however, Vietnam’s new combat power in the air, at sea, and on land is coming from Russia. China’s displays of naval might are only part of the mosaic influencing Vietnam’s decisions in these matters.