LIMA 2013: Russia boosts its submarine exports to Asia
This year Vietnam will receive the first of six Project 636 submarines it has ordered. At present, the first Vietnamese submarine, which was named “Hanoi”, is already undergoing testing. At the beginning of this year the Vietnamese team of the future vessel started its training in Russia. Simultaneously, Russian specialists are building in Vietnam the entire necessary infrastructure for using the submarines and training the submarine personnel.
One cannot exclude the possibility that the transfer to Vietnam of the Project 636 submarines will go more quickly than what was stated by Rubin’s CEO, - suggests expert Vasily Kashin. It is known for a fact that the second submarine of the Vietnamese order has already been launched, while the third one is expected to be launched in August. It is quite possible that this year Vietnam will get two submarines and another one in 2014. All six submarines have to be transferred to Vietnam by the end of 2016.
Thus, 2013 will be used to develop the Vietnamese fleet's submarine forces. Prior to this Vietnam tried to set up its submarine forces by purchasing two superlight submarines from North Korea, but it failed. North Korea's light submarines turned out to be too weak in their combat capabilities.
According to Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the acquisition of the Project 636 submarines from Russia satisfies Vietnam’s need to defend its sovereignty at sea and in reality poses no threat to the interests of Russia's strategic partner China. The limited submarine forces would not give Vietnam any chance of winning the battle against the Chinese fleet, which supersedes it by several times, but would allow it to preserve the status-quo with its own resources. The lack of its own effective naval forces could push Vietnam towards a closer partnership with powers from outside the region, like it happened in the Philippines' case. Taking all this into account, the real conflict between Vietnam and China has a very low probability as China's policy towards Vietnam is based on the maximum engagement of the Vietnamese in trade and economic cooperation.
Another promising direction for the export of Russian submarines to Asia is India. The India’s navy is getting ready to announce a tender for the purchasing of 6 non-nuclear submarines. According to Rubin's CEO Igor Vilnit, Russia is planning to offer the Indians its submarines of the Amur-950 project. Amur-950 is a reduced version of the Amur-1650 submarines, the acquisition of which China is currently negotiating to purchase. Compared to Amur-1650 they have a lower displacement and a lower range, while their armament is just slightly inferior to that of the Amur-1650 submarines.
The specific qualities of the Amur-950 submarines include the vertical launch for 10 ballistic missiles, which if needed could be launched within 2 minutes.
The offer to the Indian Navy includes the vessels equipped with ultrasound ballistic missiles “Brahmos” jointly produced by Russia and India. Russia's participation in the Brahmos project is considered to give a serious advantage to the Russian proposal for this tender, in which the French submarine producers are participating as well. Obviously, these submarines of a low displacement are meant to be used in the Indian Ocean only.
At the same time, the negotiations with China are still underway to supply four larger Amur-1650 submarines, of which two are likely to be equipped with the new Russian engines which work without air supply. Due to the extended range of action, the Amur-1650 submarines can be used in the Pacific Ocean at far distances from the bases. Compared to the Project 636 submarines supplied to China earlier, Amur-1650 boats have lower level of perceptibility, which increases their chances of overcoming Japan's system of submarine defense.
The modern diesel-electric submarines are an effective and relatively inexpensive weapon, which gives the naval forces of Asia's developing countries a chance to stand up to the large fleets of the developed countries, believes Vasily Kashin, a Russian expert on defense issues. The experience of the Falklands war of 1982 and the subsequent naval military exercises of the NATO countries revealed that with proper management such boats can successfully overcome the anti-submarine defense of aircraft carrier combat groups.