HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam has held its first military trade show as it seeks to continue to reduce its dependence on Russian weapons.
The Vietnam International Defence Expo, or VIDEX, took place Dec. 8-10 at Gia Lam Airport in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. About 170 organizations participated in the event, including the state-owned telecommunications provider Viettel and U.S.-based unmanned technology specialist RT Robotics.
Viettel, which is run by Vietnam’s Defence Ministry, showed off a variety of small arms at its indoor booth; its outdoor display included several vehicle-mounted air defense radars as well as communications and electronic warfare systems. These included short- and medium-range 3D S-band air defense radars and the AJAS-1000 family of electronic warfare systems.
RT Robotics displayed its vertical-takeoff-and-landing drone Hera, which is capable of carrying nine grenades and is small enough for an individual to transport and deploy.
A recurring theme at the expo was Vietnam’s desire to reduce its dependence on traditional supplier Russia for its military equipment. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia was Vietnam’s top major arms provider from 2017 to 2021, accounting for 56% of Hanoi’s total imports in this category. Israel was second (19%), followed by South Korea (6.6%).
The think tank also found that Russian arms exports dropped between the time frames of 2012-2016 and 2017-2021, partly because of a 71% decrease in Vietnamese arms exports.
Vietnam’s existing dependency, however, was laid bare by the outdoor exhibits, with Viettel systems primarily mounted on Russian-supplied Kamaz trucks along multiple legacy Russian systems.
Vietnam’s desire to replace aging Russian-built equipment was also evident, with Cold War-era systems — such as a BRDM-2 scout car and 4K44 Redut-M coastal defense missiles — present at outdoor exhibits.
Joining these were modern, non-Russian weapon systems acquired by Vietnam in recent years, including a European Airbus C295 tactical airlifter as well as the short- and medium-range versions of the Spyder air defense system, made by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Sarah Russ, who serves as the mobilization assistant to the director of strategy, plans, programs and requirements at Headquarters Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii, said at the show that Vietnam will take delivery of 12 Textron T-6 Texan II turboprop trainer aircraft beginning in 2024.
Vietnam will receive three T-6 aircraft in the first quarter of 2024, with the completion of deliveries expected in 2027. This would mark the first major transfer of U.S. military equipment to Vietnam since an arms embargo was lifted in 2016.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.