U.S. defence companies are in talks with Vietnam to sell them helicopters and drones.
In talks with top Vietnamese government officials, U.S. defence companies have talked about selling Vietnam military equipment like helicopters and drones, according to two sources who know about the talks. This is a new sign that Vietnam may stop buying so many weapons from Russia.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Boeing (NYSE:BA), Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), Textron (NYSE:TXT), and IM Systems Group met with the officials last week on the sidelines of the country’s first large-scale arms fair, according to the US-ASEAN Business Council, an industry group that set up the meetings.
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A person who was at the talks about weapons said that the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of National Defense were there.
The first talks may not lead to any deals, as Vietnam is looking for new suppliers and the Ukraine conflict is putting a strain on Russia, which has been Vietnam’s main military partner for many years. Russia has also been hit with strict sanctions because of the war, which Moscow calls a “special operation.”
Nguyen The Phuong, a military expert and researcher at the University of New South Wales, said, “This is the start of the Vietnam People’s Army being more open to U.S. weapons and more willing to work with the U.S. in defence as a whole.”
Analysts say that military deals with the U.S. could run into many problems, such as the possibility that Washington could block arms sales because of human rights; worries about how it would affect Hanoi’s tense relationship with China; high costs; and the question of whether U.S.-made systems can be integrated with Vietnam’s old weapons.
The person who went to the meetings said that the companies offered a wide range of military equipment and had “promising” talks about non-lethal equipment like drones, radars, and other systems to keep an eye on the air, the sea, and space.
When asked for comments, Vietnam’s defence and foreign ministries did not answer.
A second person who knows about the situation said that discussions about drones and helicopters started before the arms fair and have included more weapons.
Lockheed Martin, which had fighter planes and military transport planes on display at the event, did not want to say anything.
Questions were sent to Vietnam’s defence ministry by a Boeing representative. When asked for comments, Raytheon, Textron, and IM Systems Group did not answer.
Nearly 50 years after the end of the Vietnam War, the talks show that the US is making more and more efforts to gain influence in Hanoi. Since an arms embargo was lifted in 2016, the U.S. has only sent coastguard ships and trainer planes to Vietnam, while Russia has sent about 80% of Vietnam’s weapons.
Dozens of defence companies from 30 countries came to the arms fair, all hoping to get a piece of the $2 billion that Vietnam spends each year on importing arms because of tensions with its neighbour China.
Both sources, who did not want to be named because the talks were private, said that Lockheed Martin had separate talks with Vietnam about a new communication and defence satellite that could replace one of the two satellites Hanoi already uses from a U.S. company.
The U.S. embassy in Hanoi didn’t want to say anything, but Ambassador Marc Knapper said the U.S. was ready to talk to Vietnam about any military equipment it might want to buy.
The U.S. military has already sent two small naval cutters and two T-6 Texan trainer planes. By 2027, another 10 of these planes will be sent. It has also promised to send Boeing ScanEagle drones for reconnaissance, but these haven’t been sent yet.
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Analysts and sources say that Vietnam is also thinking about making deals with suppliers in Israel, India, Europe, and Northeast Asia. In the last ten years, Israel has been the second-biggest seller of weapons to Vietnam, after Russia.