HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam showed off its upgraded Cold War-era, Soviet-made air defense systems at its first defense expo, improving their capabilities against modern threats such as cruise missiles and drones.
An upgraded ZSU-23-4M Shilka tracked, self-propelled anti-aircraft gun and S-125 Pechora-2M medium-range surface-to-air missiles were on static display during the Vietnam International Defence Expo, which took place Dec. 8-10 at Gia Lam Airport in the capital Hanoi.
The upgraded ZSU-23-4M featured an electro-optical system fitted with a laser rangefinder. It also included daylight and thermal cameras capable of automatic target tracking in lieu of its turret mounted RPK-2 Tobol fire-control radar (NATO designation Gun Dish) for its quadruple 23mm autocannons.
The tracking system is linked to a new digital fire-control system made by state-owned defense company Viettel, which says the technology enables the tracking of aircraft up to a range of 20 kilometers (12 miles) and allows the engagement of low-altitude targets.
It is also fitted with four Russian-made Igla short-range surface-to-air missiles, increasing the engagement range from 2,500 meters to 5,500 meters, and at target altitudes of up to 3,500 meters (an increase from 1,500 meters).
The four-year upgrade program began in 2014, although not all of Vietnam’s ZSU-23-4Ms received upgrades, with a video of an air defense exercise in 2021 showing the radar-equipped vehicles still in service.
The Pechora-2M system on display at VIDEX was mounted on a fixed launcher with four missiles. Vietnam upgraded its missiles with assistance from Belarus and Russia in the early-2010s to the Pechora-2M standard. The Southeast Asian nation says the upgraded missiles can be used to engage cruise missiles.
Other improvements to the missiles reportedly include shorter engagement times, improved performance against electronic jamming and improved kill probability.
The original S-125 and ZSU-23-4 were first introduced by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, with the former used in the Vietnam War against American jets. Vietnam also currently operates newer Russian air defense systems such as the S-300 surface-to-air missile.
The country has also started looking beyond its traditional Russian suppliers in recent years, having acquired air defense systems from Israel that saw the introduction of the short- and medium-range Spyder surface-to-air missiles. Vietnam has reportedly expressed interest in the Barak 8 system, made by Israel Aerospace Industries.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.