MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The United States may begin supplying military transport and patrol aircraft to Vietnam after the decades-old US arms sales embargo against the country is lifted, Vasily Kashin, a senior research fellow at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told Sputnik on Tuesday.
"The first thing to be supplied to Vietnam once the embargo is lifted will be the P-3 Orion patrol aircraft. Russia has stopped manufacturing basic patrol planes in the 1990s, we have nothing to offer Vietnam in this area. The second thing will be the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. We do not produce any planes in this category, we have the heavier Il-76," Kashin said.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is an anti-submarine as well as a maritime surveillance aircraft, which is capable of detecting and striking submarines, as well as engaging in anti-surface warfare against ships. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is used as a military transport aircraft, but can also be used for airborne assault and as a gunship.
"The business competition on the Vietnamese market has been growing even without the US decision. Vietnam is carrying out a policy of diversifying its ties, it is cooperating with Israel, several EU countries and is developing relations with India. For Russia, Obama's decision does not change much," he said.
Vietnam's appetite for arms imports has been among the world's fastest growing. Between 2011-2015, the country became the world's eighth largest arms importer and increased procurement by nearly 700 percent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Russian arms accounted for over 90 percent of these orders, Kashin said.
Beijing’s territorial claims to the Spratly Islands, known as Nansha Islands in China, which are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves, run counter to those of Vietnam, as well as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. China has recently intensified construction works on the reefs it controls around the disputed Spratly Island archipelago.
The South China Sea dispute has been a source of tension between China and the United States, and has influenced relations with Vietnam. The US arms embargo was partially lifted in 2014 as relations between Hanoi and Beijing, the United States' main rival in the region, became strained due to the territorial dispute.