Tag Archives: Vietnam

GPV, Exports, and OPK Capacity

New Sub at Admiralty (photo: RIA Novosti)

This morning RIA Novosti reported on a familiar topic — the conflict between planned acquisition embodied in the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, and the Russian OPK’s capacity and capability to deliver it.  In this case, new diesel-electric submarines from St. Petersburg’s Admiralty Wharves.  Also familiar is one reason for the bind — a lingering priority on production for sale abroad.

A highly-placed OPK source tells the news agency that the GPV’s plan for conventional submarine deliveries might not be fulfilled due to Admiralty’s heavy load of orders.  The Russian Navy is reportedly supposed to get 20 new diesel-electric boats by 2020, and Russia also has ten foreign deliveries scheduled.  The OPK source notes that Admiralty has become a sole source for conventional subs, and he calls for shifting some sub production to Nizhniy Novgorod and Komsomolsk:

“In view of the large volume of new submarine construction for the Navy, and also for export, it’s essential to diversify production, utilizing, for example, the capacity of ‘Krasnoye Sormovo’ Shipbuilding Plant in Nizhniy Novgorod and the Amur Shipbuilding Plant in Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Otherwise the state program in the diesel submarine construction area could be disrupted.”

RIA Novosti notes “Krasnoye Sormovo” built plenty of Soviet submarines, 280 in all, including 25 nuclear-powered ones.  Its last boat was a diesel-electric for China in 2005.  The plant also outfits Russian Navy and export subs with torpedo- and mast-related equipment.

The article also speculates that construction of French-designed Mistral helicopter carriers could be problematic if Admiralty is selected.  The shipyard is reportedly planning on new construction space on Kronshtadt for this reason.  The OPK source says Mistral would be Admiralty’s main concern, and occupy its main capacity and personnel.  So, he continues, it’s logical to send some orders (i.e. submarines) to other factories that have the capabilities.

Igor Korotchenko tells RIA Novosti “Krasnoye Sormovo” could provide extra buildingways if Admiralty can’t meet all its export contracts.  He says Admiralty is now building five subs under the GOZ, six for Vietnam, and:

“In the event new contracts are signed for sub construction with Venezuela and Indonesia there will be an obvious problem with inadequate buildingway space, and then a backup could be required.”

RIA Novosti notes rather dryly along the way that no Russian GPV has been fulfilled completely because of the country’s insufficient modern industrial capacity.

One wonders what, if any, work and investment would be required to bring “Krasnoye Sormovo” and Amur back into the sub-building business.

Advertisements

A Base By Any Other Name?

Medvedev with Vietnamese Counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Cam Ranh was sure to be a topic for President Dmitriy Medvedev’s Vietnam trip.  But not a major one if Medvedev foreign policy assistant Sergey Prikhodko is to be believed.  Nevertheless, Prikhodko kept alive the idea of renewing some kind of Russian naval presence in Vietnam, whether called a base or a ‘material-technical support point.’  Prikhodko intimates the latter wouldn’t be anything like the former since times have changed so much.  Others will say the name it’s given is less signficant than what it actually turns out to be (if anything).

On Friday RIA Novosti quoted Prikhodko by name, on the eve of the Vietnam trip, saying:

“I don’t think we need to reestablish (in its old form) a base at Cam Ranh.”

And he claimed there was nothing concerning Cam Ranh in the documents  prepared for the visit.

Today ITAR-TASS coyly cited a Presidential Administration source (using Prikhodko’s exact words) who said Moscow is not tabling the issue of fully reestablishing a naval base at Cam Ranh:   

“Russia has material-technical support points for its Navy in many countries, you undoubtedly know them – from the Maldives on an occasional basis to Syria.  Naturally, the Vietnamese are interested in maximum capitalization on what was done by them and us.  But I don’t think we need to raise the issue of reestablishing the base.”

“It’s logical that in the framework of regular Russian Navy exercises, particularly in recent times, given our increased cooperation with European Union and NATO on antipiracy problems, this is an acute issue.  There’s nothing supernatural here.  And the fact is, in order for our ships to resupply with food and replenish in an efficient manner, they need infrastructure capabilities.”

“The idea of the base belongs to the Vietnamese side, it involves using the good groundwork and experience which Vietnam and Russia had earlier in supporting the security of navigation, supplying ships with food, with refueling.  It’s likely we’re talking about the possibilities of material-technical support of Russian ship cruises.”

“This is not the central subject (in the high-level talks), we have no enemies in this region as in past times, but to have the possibility to visit ports on regular and standard conditions wouldn’t be bad.”

“I don’t know the military’s plans in relation to this base and suppose that they don’t have any.  We’re talking about supporting the reliable functioning of our ships, including those fulfilling functions of various types of our cooperation with international organizations.”

Comparing the possibility of Cam Ranh with the existing situation with Syria, he said:

“This [Cam Ranh] is even better than the Syrian variant.  When it comes to Syria, we are always looking around at the reaction of neighbors, Israel, for example.  Here [Cam Ranh] it’s a much softer and more transparent variant.”

“There are complexities connected with ships passing the Strait of Malacca.  Therefore, on the level of public announcements, all countries in the region are interested that we should send military vessels there.”

It all seems like an awful lot of talk for something that ain’t goin’ happen . . .

Return to Cam Ranh?

Russia Departs Cam Ranh in 2002 (photo: ITAR-TASS)

The Russian Navy’s possible return to Vietnam became the latest military rumor floated in the media last week.  If it happens, it won’t have exactly the same purposes as in 1979, and it probably won’t be on the same scale.  But it will be part and parcel of the issue of being, or wanting to remain, a naval power.  Moscow might have to ask itself if it still is one, or will be one in the future.

On Wednesday, former Navy Main Staff Chief, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko told Interfaks the Navy is proposing to reestablish a material-technical support base (PMTO or ПМТО) at Cam Ranh.

The news service quotes Kravchenko:

“Without a system of bases for deployment, full support of Navy ships in distant waters is problematic.  Navy surface ships and submarines need repair, resupply, and crew rest to fulfill a wide range of missions on the world’s oceans.  If as before Russia considers itself a naval power, the reestablishment and creation of basing points like Cam Ranh is unavoidable.”

A Defense Ministry source told Nezavisimaya gazeta that:

“The [Navy] Glavkomat has finished work on the documents considering and substantiating the need to reestablish a basing point to support Russian ships in the Asia-Pacific region.  If there is a political decision, then the Navy is prepared to reestablish a working base in three years.”

The base would support ships on antipiracy missions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, according to the source.

The Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Military-Technical Cooperation, former Captain First Rank Mikhail Nenashev told Interfaks:

“The rent for a naval base at Cam Ranh, in the end, would cost Russia less than regular support of combatants on the world’s oceans using auxiliary ships, tankers, and repair ships.”

And:

“Reestablishing a base at Cam Ranh would help strengthen and develop cooperation with Vietnam and the Asia-Pacific region countries not only in military, but in many others spheres of activity.”

Izvestiya says, Moscow doesn’t intend to return to a Cold War-style global military confrontation with Washington – it has not the forces, means, or desire for it – but the ‘Cam Ranh initiative’ shows that a gradual reanimation of specific military bases abroad could happen.

According to Newsru.com and Vremya novostey, in 1979, Moscow and Hanoi signed a 25-year agreement by which the Soviet Pacific Fleet’s 17th Squadron gained access to Cam Ranh.  Vietnam allowed the Soviet Navy to base 10 surface ships, 8 submarines with a submarine support ship, and 6 auxiliaries at the port.  Later, the 922nd PMTO was established at the Vietnamese port.  The Soviets had POL storage, an ASW and missile armaments base and technical service unit, a Naval Infantry sub-unit, and an air regiment at Cam Ranh.

The base was initially free, but Hanoi asked for $300 million in rent in 1998.  In 2001, Moscow decided not to extend its agreement with Vietnam, and the last Russian elements departed Cam Ranh in mid-2002.  The decisionmaking around the Cam Ranh withdrawal (likewise for Lourdes, Cuba) is anything but clear-cut.  But then President Putin probably made the decision, reportedly against the advice of many senior uniformed officers, in an effort to save money for the military at home, and to make nice with Washington.  Former high-ranking General Staff officer Leonid Ivashov claims the $300 million rent, at least, shouldn’t have been an issue since it could have been written off against Vietnam’s $10 billion debt to Moscow.

Prime Minister Putin’s December 2009 Hanoi visit and major arms deal, including six proyekt 636 diesel submarines, with Vietnam may have started movement on a return to Cam Ranh.  Defense Minister Serdyukov went to Hanoi in February and told Rossiyskaya gazeta the Vietnamese were very interested in constructing a Navy repair plant and Russian help with naval logistics.  However, Serdyukov claimed the Vietnamese didn’t propose anything about Cam Ranh.  But NG’s Vladimir Mukhin speculates a deal for a renewed Russian presence at the base might be inked during President Medvedev’s late October trip to Vietnam.

Izvestiya quotes independent military analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

“Theoretically, I welcome the reestablishment of a Navy base at Cam Ranh.  For Russia, it is a very composite and most useful facility abroad. Without it, the operations of the Pacific Fleet are impeded.  Also very little remains of the Pacific Fleet.  This fact, however, doesn’t change the usefulness of the base at Cam Ranh.  Such a step could, of course, create certain foreign policy difficulties for Russia.  I suppose the U.S. and China will express dissatisfaction, but this will hardly have any real effect.  As concerns Vietnam, it would pay to view it as our most important ally.  Russia largely cast it aside after the collapse of the USSR.  This was a gross mistake worth correcting.”

It’s worth recalling Khramchikhin may view Vietnam through a slightly Sinophobic prism.

Talking to NG, Duma Deputy, and former Black Sea Fleet commander, Vladimir Komoyedov worries there won’t be anything to deploy at Cam Ranh:

“The Pacific Fleet, whose ships need to control the waters of South-East Asia, has hardly received any new units for the last two decades.  And what will we deploy to Cam Ranh?”