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'Waste of Money': Will Israeli 'Pythons' Make Vietnam's Air Force Any Better?

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A Vietnamese online paper recently published an article, whose author tries to justify the need to arm the country’s Russian-made Su-27/30 fighters and Su-22 fighter-bombers with Israeli-made Python-5 air-to-air missiles.

Visitors discuss in front of Defence Research & Development Organization's Akash medium range surface to air missile system, at the DefExpo-India 2010 , in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 - Sputnik International
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The author writes, citing information provided by the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute, that an unspecified number of Python-5 missiles have been supplied to Vietnam for use by the country’s Israeli-made Spyder-SR short and medium range mobile air defense system, and that some of these missiles can be installed on Soviet and Russian made warplanes.

In an interview with Sputnik, Moscow-based military expert and a seasoned Air Force pilot Makar Aksyonenko said that even though the Pytnon-5 missile is a versatile weapon currently used by missile defense systems and Israeli F-15, F-16 and Kfir fighter jets, it’s characteristics are equal to the R-73 missiles found on the Su-27 and Su-30 [planes and notably inferior to Russia’s latest R-73M and R-74 missiles.

“The R-73M heat-seeking missile has greater range and can ‘see’ targets to 60° off the missile’s centerline. It can also be backward fired at an enemy plane attacking from behind and targeted by a helmet-mounted sight allowing pilots to designate targets by looking at them, which is vital during highly maneuverable dogfights,” he said.

The R-73M missile is also used by MiG-29 and MiG-31fighters, Mi-24 and Ka-52 land- and ship-based helicopter gunships.

“This means that the Israeli missile is in no way better than ours,” Aksyonenko added.

He also mentioned the problems that could arise when adapting foreign-made missiles for use on the Sukhoi fighters.

“Any unauthorized use of non-standard weapons on Su-27/30 fighters, and attempts to upgrade them is fraught with serious breakups and the manufacturer’s refusal to service them any further.”

Preparing to fire an S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile at the Ashuluk proving grounds during an Aerospace Defence Forces tactical drill - Sputnik International
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Makar Aksyonenko noted that maximum reliance on standard-issue weapons and their latest versions used in Russia would be the best way to go.

“In a word, any attempts to arm Su planes with foreign-made weapons are just a waste of money with very questionable results. This would hardly help improve the combat capability of the Vietnamese Air Force,” he emphasized.

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