Chang Ching, Want China Times
14 August 2015
Earlier this month, the Vietnamese Navy commissioned two new Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, the 184-Hai Phong and the 185-Khanh Hoa, at a ceremony at Cam Ranh Naval in Khanh Hoa province, south of Hanoi.
Under a contract signed by the two countries, two more submarines of the same class will be delivered in 2016. The two new vessels will be part of the Submarine Brigade 189, which already includes the 182-Hanoi and the 183-Ho Chi Minh–the first two Kilo-class SSKs in the Vietnam People's Navy.
Vietnam is working to build a fleet of six Kilo-class SSKs to boost its naval capability.
Just like other products, military weapons are priced on the basis of supply and demand.
Regardless of their quality, these armaments can only fetch high prices if there is demand. If there are no buyers, the weapons will not have any value.
Submarines were typically used for naval blockades, sinking large numbers of merchant ships and warships and thus paralyzing the enemy's military industry and war effort by causing severe shortages of war materials and products and preventing maritime troop transfers. Such blockades also force the enemy to divert enormous resources into anti-submarine warfare.
While Vietnam bought its submarines from Russia amid continued tensions in the South China Sea, it should measure the value of deploying the vessels in the South China Sea.
First, Vietnam should face the political reality that submarine warfare is just not possible in the South China Sea unless an all-out war erupts.
Second, if Vietnam's submarines are deployed to run blockades in areas where the enemy is shipping only small amounts of cargo, Vietnam should realize that is an inefficient use of its submarines.
In addition, using submarines to block navigation in the South China Sea could hurt the economic interests of many countries and spur antagonism against Vietnam.
Moreover, it could alter the balance in the South China Sea quite dramatically and even fuel tensions over territorial disputes in the marine area.