With the lifting of the many-decades long US arms embargo to Vietnam, would it really be too far-fetched to see them operating Super Hornets? If a country with questionable loyalties like Pakistan operates F16s, why not Vietnam?
A Coming Shift in Vietnamese Military Aviation?
Vietnam’s People’s Air Force (VPAF) could begin flying Western fighters. Here’s why that matters.
By Robert Farley
January 16, 2016
As several other writers have noted, the acquisition of Western aircraft (most likely the Gripen, Rafale, or Typhoon) would represent a huge shift in Vietnam’s defense trajectory. Vietnam hasn’t flown a Western warplane since the Vietnamese People’s Army overran Saigon, capturing 41 F-5 Tigers in the process. The Tigers that didn’t end up in the Soviet Union or the Eastern Bloc were soon grounded for lack of spares.
To be sure, Vietnam has experience with modern jet fighters, currently flying a few dozen advanced Flanker variants purchased from Russia. These aircraft are far more capable than the older MiG-21s that make up the bulk of the Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF), but they remain Soviet kit. Any European aircraft will require what amounts to a revolution in maintenance, spares, weapons, and handling procedures.
Thus, the sale would likely represent a long-term relationship between Vietnam and whatever country is lucky enough to get the sale. It would likely require some technology transfer (especially if Vietnam can generate a competitive bidding process), the presence of engineers and maintenance personnel on the ground, and a long training regimen. The aircraft will (undoubtedly) return to the host country for periodic upgrades and overhauls as new weapon and software systems become available.