The purchase of 3M-14E ballistic missiles from Russia makes Vietnam's six Kilo-class 636MV submarines more powerful than their Chinese counterparts. Pinkov said the 3M-14E is only allowed to be exported to Algeria, India and Vietnam. It is not allowed to be installed aboard China's Kilo-class MV submarines yet. In a war between China and Vietnam, the Vietnamese navy is very likely to use the submarines in the vanguard against the PLA Navy.
The Vietnamese subs have also undergone a number of modifications to make them quieter. In a potential operation against China's South Sea Fleet based in Zhanjiang in Guangdong, the ballistic missile can be used in coordination with satellites. Compared to China's 3M-54E ballistic missile which has a range of only 220 kilometers, Vietnam's 3M-14E can reach 280 kilometers. This is enough for the People's Navy of Vietnam to attack critical Chinese naval targets in Hainan and Guangdong.
Russia has transferred all technologies Vietnam needs to operate the submarines. Unlike China, Vietnam does not have the tradition of reverse engineering the military hardware it acquires from Russia. Furthermore, Vietnam has India as its major ally in the region. Pinkov said India may provide more assistance to Vietnam than Russia since they operate Kilo-class submarines in waters of a similar temperature. However, a source said that both countries have to send their submarines back to Russia for overhaul.
In addition to Kilo-class submarines, the People's Air Force of Vietnam is likely to deploy its first Su-30MK2 fighters purchased from Russia to Cam Ranh Bay. By 2015, Vietnam is estimated to operate 32 Su-30MK2 in the region. Those fighters can increase Vietnam's force projection capability against China over the disputed Spratly islands.
Vietnam Kilo-class submarine anchored at Cam Ranh Bay.