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US wants to equip Vietnam with best military equipment: Andrea Thompson

Updated at Tuesday, 04 Jun 2019, 08:05
The Hanoitimes - Washington considers Vietnam one of its strong defense partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
The US looks for next steps with Vietnam to provide the latter with the best armed equipment in the world, said US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.  
 
Andrea L. Thompson, US Secretary of State, speaking to the press on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 2. Photo: Straitstimes
Andrea L. Thompson, US Secretary of State, speaking to the press on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 2. Photo: Straitstimes
Vietnam is one of US strong defense partners in the region, Andrea Thompson affirmed in a teleconference with reporters on June 3 following the Singapore-based 18th Shangri-La Dialogue. 

Andrea said that she realized in her visit to Vietnam last summer, the two countries have made incredible actions in defense ties, including coast guard and sea patrol. 

In answering a question on the visit of
USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to Vietnam last year, Andrea noted that feedback from the government of Vietnam about the visit was "incredibly positive."

It’s not only a symbolic representation for the relationship but also the two countries cooperate in training and information sharing as maritime experts meet and discuss the concerns in the region,
she said. 

The assistant secretary said
that she hoped for another visit of a US aircraft carrier and expected that the government of Vietnam will welcome it.

In March 2018, a US aircraft carrier docked at a port in Vietnam for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Weapon contracts

 
ScanEagle UAV. Photo: Defense Media Network
ScanEagle UAV. Photo: Defense Media Network
On May 31, the US Department of Defense announced that it would provide large support to Insitu for the provision of 34 ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for 4 ASEAN countries, including 6 aircraft totaling US$9.77 million for Vietnam. 

In addition, this order provides for spare payloads, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools, training, technical services, and field service representatives.

Delivery for the ordering agreements is expected to be completed in March 2022.

The ScanEagle has been modified into two models, day and night, both equipped with different cameras to better suit the needs of troops on the ground. 

The aircraft is roughly 40 pounds and can remain in the air for nine to 14 hours depending on fuel and weather conditions. The ScanEagle requires no runway or arresting gear to operate. A pressure-controlled launcher is used to catapult the UAV into the air.

The latest version of ScanEagle features upgraded avionics, expanded payload options and a new heavy fuel purpose-built propulsion system that dramatically improves reliability and performance. 

Backed by the experience of more than 965,000 flight hours on land and at sea, the aircraft maximizes commonality with Insitu systems, saving money on life-cycle costs and training, according to Defense Blog.

The military contract could be one of Vietnam’s most notable US military acquisitions since Washington lifted military sanctions on the Southeast Asian country in 2016 during President Obama's visit, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Vietnam plans to acquire a number of fighter and multi-role aircraft, naval ships, patrol vessels, maritime patrol aircraft, submarines and surveillance equipment in the near future for its military modernization plans amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, Naval Technology has reported.

Bilateral meetings at Shangri-La Dialogue

On the sidelines of this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich met with US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan for building practical defense cooperation, particularly in the area of maritime security, and underscoring the US commitment to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region based on a stable, rules-based order.  

Meanwhile, Andrea Thompson met with Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh. The meeting in Andrea’s words was effective and wonderful to strengthen the US-Vietnam defense partnership. They discussed Vietnam’s military modernization plans and increasing Vietnam’s defense capacity, according to Thompson's tweet.

In April, a US Defense official said that the US was discussing with the Vietnamese side to clear the way for another aircraft carrier’s visit in 2019.
Linh Pham
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