Thus, recently the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense reported having received from Russia the first consignment of the ultra-modern anti-aircraft missile systems (ZRK) S-300PMU1 manufactured by the "Almaz" ("Diamond") Scientific & Production Association. It seems to be the first of the two missile battalions that the Russian party undertook to supply under contract signed by Russia and Vietnam two years ago. Altogether Hanoi would get two battalions of such ZRK (12 launching pads and 2 control and targeting units) for the total price of $300 mln.
It is noteworthy that Vietnam's air defense force is getting the "300s" on the 40th anniversary of the first successful use of their ancestor – the famous Soviet ZRK S-75 "Dvina"/"Volkhov" – in the Vietnamese skies. In 1965 this missile shot down the first aircraft of the US Air Force over North Vietnam. In the West the "S-75" was code-named SA-2, and US pilots called those Soviet missiles "flying telephone poles" for their size.
According to the data of Soviet military specialists who worked in Vietnam, the total number of American aircraft shot down by "S-75" missiles during the war in Indochina in 1965-73, came to 1163, including 30-50 strategic bombers B-52, as well as 130 pilotless reconnaissance planes. It was in Vietnam that the Soviet anti-aircraft missiles won their first world recognition. They also impressed the Vietnamese leadership to such an extent that it even gave its air defense force the honorary title of the "Hero Combat Arm", in recognition of the exceptional services rendered by the missile units in assuring the victory over the USA.
Considering all this, it is no wonder that in spite of the certain toning down of our mutual relations after the collapse of the USSR, Vietnam keeps on the affection and respect for the armaments manufactured in Russia. Beginning in the second half of the 1990s, Vietnam becomes one of the biggest buyers of Russian weaponry in South-East Asia.
At that time Vietnam signed a number of big contracts to buy weapons in Russia to the tune of over $500 mln. In 1995-98 Hanoi bought 12 SU-27 fighters for $380 mln and modernized 34 SU-22 fighter-bombers, and also purchased six missile-bearing speed-boats of series 1241for $120 mln. In November-December 2004, Vietnam purchased four SU-30MK2B multi-purpose fighters for $110 mln. By the end of 2004 Vietnam became the third, after China and India, biggest buyer of Russian weapons.
According to the data of "Rosoboronexport". Vietnam is likely to order soon another 4-7 SU-30MK2B fighters from Russia. Besides, talks are nearing completion for a contract to build two corvettes (export series 20380). This goes to show that the inheritors of the victors over US imperialism are interested today in the most advanced armaments, and they are ready to spend a significant part of their military budget, which is less than $1 billion a year, to get it.
In spite of the wide popularity of the S-300 complex, Vietnam has become only the third country to where these unique anti-aircraft systems are being supplied. Before that, only China and Cyprus bought it, and the widening of the geography of the supplies is a big success for "Rosoboronexport". In Russian military experts' opinion, anyone who wants to build up a serious air defense system would need a complex of the S-300 class. As for Vietnam, the S-300s would help it to contain any potential threat.
The supplies of the S-300 to Vietnam have become good advertising for the Russian ZRK. It is known that at least 15 countries, including Syria and Jordan, have expressed their interest in acquiring it. However, Syria is handicapped by a shortage of funds and Israel's threats, while Jordan is a too close ally of the USA. As rumor has it, at the recent MAKS-2005 Air-Space Show King of Jordan Abdalla II personally asked Vladimir Putin to sell Jordan the S-300PMU1 system, but the issue still remains "at the stage of consideration and coordination".
Experts also believe that Vietnam's buying Russian weapons largely stimulates the growth of interest to it among other countries of South-East Asia. Thus, orders for the supply of the "SU" family aircraft from Russia have been placed by Indonesia and Malaysia (the latter for $950 mln). The Indonesian Air Force, having received SU-27SK and SU-30MK, two pieces of each aircraft, have decided to deploy in perspective a force of 44 aircraft. Besides, lately Thailand has also shown interest in Russian fighters and missiles.
Russian arms manufacturers heavily rely on other countries of the region also showing interest in S-300PMU1 systems, after the Vietnamese air defense force has taken delivery of them. Meanwhile, the "300s" would not only continue the glorious tradition of their ancestors "S-75s" in defending the sovereignty and safety of Vietnam's skies, but would also serve to strengthen Russia's influence and prestige in South-East Asia.