Why Are We Selling Anti-Sub Patrol Planes to Vietnam?

Posted: May 14, 2013 by ShortTimer in Government, US Foreign Policy

Just something I dug up while cleaning through notes to blog about, from Janes, last month:

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is expected to request from the US government the sale of Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), a senior company official told IHS Jane’s on 10 April.

Speaking at the LAAD Defence and Security 2013 exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Clay Fearnow, director maritime patrol programmes, said the Vietnamese Navy was keen to buy up to six surplus P-3s to help patrol the country’s nearly 3,500 km coastline and 1,396,299 km2 Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“The Vietnamese Navy has expressed a lot of interest [in the P-3], and there is [US government] support to move forward,” said Fearnow.

Why is the US government supporting this?

According to Fearnow, any P-3s sold to Vietnam by the US would in the first instance be non-weaponised, being fitted exclusively with an MPA mission kit such as forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensors and other systems. However, he noted that as relations between the two countries continue to improve there could be scope for weapon systems to be provided at a later date.

Fearnow said Lockheed Martin would recommend they opt for the latter P-3C aircraft, as they are the most advanced and have the fewer airframe hours on them.

The P-3 Orion already has a fairly broad base of users beyond the US, but this still seems strange.

For those who’ve forgotten, the P-3 Orion featured rather prominently in the early 2000s with the Hainan Island incident, where a Chinese fighter crashed into a US P-3, which was then seized by the Chinese government.

Relations between the US and Vietnam have improved in the last few decades, but it still seems peculiar.  Maybe relations have improved a lot more than they seem.

But given Obama’s early support of Honduran dictator-for-life-wannabe Zelaya and his general distaste for American allies (Mubarak, Iranian protesters, etc.) and embracing America’s enemies (Muslim brotherhood, etc.), this seems suspect.

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