Vietnam no longer considers Israeli-upgraded T-54/55 tanks

A large number of old Russian-amde T-54/55 tanks are still in service with the Vietnam People's Army. But to meet the demands of modern warfare, these tanks need to be considerably upgraded.
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T-54/55 of the Vietnam People's Army (Picture source : Vietnam People's Army)

Old Russian-made T-54/55 tanks, however completely outdated, still account for a very large number of equipment of the People's Army of Vietnam as well as many countries around the world, as stressed by Defense Studies. Countries with strong economic potential have all moved to replace the T-54/55 with new and more modern tanks; But many poor countries with limited resources choose to upgrade for themselves to continue using.

Military cooperation between Vietnam and Israel in recent years has made great progress and is an important source of weapons for Vietnam. Israel is a country that has experience in upgrading a wide range of weapons and equipment of different origins, be it from the Soviet Union or the U.S, for instance.

In 2009, Vietnam invited Israeli defense enterprises to participate in upgrading T-54 tanks. The T-54 model upgraded by Israel for Vietnam is cdesignated T-54M3. In fact, this is an upgraded version of the T-55S1 that Israel helps to upgrade for the Slovenian Army.

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T-55S1 of the Slovenian Army (Picture source: eugensystems)

In the upgraded T-55S1 version, the original 100mm D-10T2S cannon has been replaced with the British L7 105 mm; the German engine and transmission have replaced the original ones; Israeli explosive reactive armor, French thermal imaging and other advanced accessories have largely imptoved the original tank.

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T-55S1 of the Slovenian Army (Picture source: eugensystems)

The Israelis produced the first prototype for the Vietnamese army to visit and learn from experience. So, the T-54M3 tank as upgraded by Israel for Vietnam adequately matches many characteristics of a modern main battle tank as well as Vietnam's terrain and climate. However, the T-54M3 still suffered from some shortcomings, starting with its firepower. The British-made L7 gun is performing but its advantage over the 100 mm shells of the original D-10T2S cannon is not sufficient. Not to mention the case that if there were a war, the partner would not sell the ammunition to the Vietnamese user.

In addition, the cost of a T-54M3 is not cheap. The price to upgrade a T-54M3 is not disclosed but if you take the price of a Thai army M60A3 tank, Israel offers the price of the upgrade. Sabra standard costs up to 4 million USD/unit. Maybe the T-54M3 as upgraded by Israel is not at that price, but certainly not a lot cheaper. Meanwhile, the T-54 operated by the Vietnamese army is more than half a century old. Although it is properly maintained, it isl inevitably degrading.

No matter how modern an upgraded T-54 is, it can't match a completely newly designed 21st-century tank. With the upgraded cost of a T-54M3, it is likely possible to buy a brand new T-90S from Russia, with completely superior features. Therefore, although Israel's upgraded model was appreciated, Vietnam still refuses to go any further in the project. At the same time, Vietnam has brought into play internal strengths, conducting local research and successfully upgrading the T-54M model.

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T-54M of the Vietnamese Army (Picture source: VTV1)

Although the locally upgraded T-54M model is not as advanced as the Israeli T-54M3, it also marks a great development of th Vietnamese military technical level, taking into account that not many countries in the world can successfully improve their heavy weapons on their own. The upgraded T-54M meets Vietnam’s major current combat requirements. The T-54M1 was even able to engage effectively with T-90s that Vietnam imported in 2019.

The important thing is that Vietnam has mastered the upgrade process, saved the budget to continue to invest in purchasing the T-90S tank widely equipped for the entire army. And as far as possible, Vietnam continues to upgrade the T-54M1 in some respects, especially the tank's firepower, to make it more adapted to modern warfare.

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