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Vietnam upgrades Soviet-made weapon systems.

| 2019

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s defense industry is investing in the modernization of Vietnam’s People Army’s (VPA’s) Soviet-made weapon systems, according to Russian and Vietnamese media outlets.

Vietnam upgrades Soviet made weapon systems
Vietnamese ASU-85 self-propelled guns (Picture source:

The country updates a wide range of military equipment, ranging from small arms to main battle tanks (MBTs). For instance, the VPA still holds a large number of Kalashnikov AK-47 and AKM 7.62 mm assault rifles (despite the ongoing rearmament of the Vietnamese units with Israeli-designed Galil ACE-family assault rifles and carbines, the AK/AKM is being operated by the VPA). Vietnam is fitting its Kalashnikov firearms with polymer buttstocks, pistol grips, and handguards, which are produced by the country’s Z111 plant. The assault rifles have also received a side-mounted (‘dovetail’) attaching lug for optical and red dot sights. However, the updated Kalashnikov firearms retain 30-round metal magazines of organic weapons.

The VPA keeps a large number of Soviet-era T-54/55 MBTs and their Chinese-built copies, Type 59 tanks, in service. According to the Military Balance 2018 report issued by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Vietnamese land force operates 850 T-54/55s and 350 Type 59s. To bring those ageing vehicles to a relatively modern standard, Vietnam fits them with new subsystems. The T-54M (M for Modernized) MBT has received the TIFCS-3BU sighting system designed by a Spanish company Indra. According to the manufacturer, the TIFCS-3BU fully replaces the organic TPN sight of the T-54/55 and has a backup working mode that is activated in a case of a power supply failure. The TDP-K sight of the baseline tank has also been retained. The TIFCS-3BU provides automatic aiming, features an independent field-of-view (FOV) stabilization, and can be operated by either commander or gunner. The sighting system incorporates a thermal imager and a laser rangefinder. The T-54M is reported to have received an updated D-10T 100 mm rifled gun and frontally mounted explosive reactive ERA. However, the VPA does not detail the implementation of the T-54M program.

Vietnam also upgrades its Soviet-made anti-aircraft assets. The VPA still uses the S-60 57 mm anti-aircraft semi-automatic cannon designed by the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. The Vietnamese industry has coupled the venerable S-60 to a computerized fire control system (FCS) and a new guidance unit. The anti-aircraft gun is also reported to have received an autoloader. A battery of modernized S-60s can be remotely controlled.

In May 2015, the VPA reactivated its ASU-85 85 mm air-droppable tank destroyers. The 168th Artillery Brigade received refurbished vehicles that had been additionally armed with a roof-mounted DShKM 12.7 mm heavy machinegun. According to Vietnamese media, the VPA’s ASU-85s received neither new guns nor applique armor. It should be mentioned that the Military Balance 2018 report does not list ASU-85s as a type of military hardware being operated by Vietnam.

The Pacific country also upgrades a number of other Soviet-made and Soviet-inspired land platforms, including BTR-152 armored personnel carriers and PT-76 light amphibious tanks (as well as the Chinese copies of these two vehicles. However, the upgrades of such systems are reported to be minor ones and the Vietnamese military provides small amounts of details about them. Nevertheless, one can state that the Soviet-era items of hardware still form the backbone of Vietnam’s land troops.

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