Exclusive-Czech Republic Looks to Supply Vietnam More Aircraft, Radars

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HANOI, Reuters - Vietnam has begun talks with the Czech Republic about military supplies including aircraft, upgraded armoured vehicles, and firearms. Hanoi is looking to diversify its arsenal, which is dominated by Russian weapons.

The official noted that the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala had discussed security with Vietnamese leaders during a three-day trip to the country. Fiala was accompanied by a business delegation, which included the majority of security companies.

Former Soviet satellite states are well-positioned to meet Vietnam's security needs. Their military firms are experts at retrofitting Russian equipment and they often produce new equipment compatible with Soviet legacy weapons. This is a skill highly regarded in Vietnam, where it is estimated that 80% of their arsenal comes from Russia.

According to the Stockholm think tank SIPRI, Prague has become the main European Union supplier of arms to Vietnam over the past two decades.

Hanoi has ordered 12 L-39NG Light Combat Aircraft from Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody for 2021. Deliveries will begin this year. The source who attended high-level talks and declined to give her name because they were internal talks said that there are discussions to deliver more of these planes.

The Vietnamese government announced that at the end of the meeting between Fiala, and the Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh "the two leaders have agreed to intensify their cooperation in the security-defence field," among others.

Officials said that if there were significant deals in supply, Prague would be able to support the transfer of weapons technology and local manufacturing.

Four of the 15 companies in the Czech delegation were security firms. The official named the Czechoslovak Group (Czechoslovak Group), Colt CZ Group (Omnipol) and STV GROUP as four of the 15 companies that made up the Czech business delegation.

Four companies have not responded to comments.

The official revealed that Omnipol owns a minority stake of Aero Vodochody, and also Aircraft Industries, a Czech manufacturer of L 410 NG freight aircraft. Last week, Vietnamese military procurement officers discussed the sale with Omnipol. As part of the Czech delegation's Asian tour, similar talks were held with Indonesian civil officials and Philippines counterparts in recent days.

Officials from Omnipol also met with Vietnamese officials to discuss the possibility of selling dual-use radars for installation in both civilian and military airports.

STV Group and Czechoslovak Group met in Hanoi to discuss possible contracts for upgrading Vietnam's Soviet made tanks and armored vehicles with advanced technology, including communication equipment.

Source: Under these contracts, companies can also provide spare parts or maintenance. However, talks are still in the preliminary stages and no new agreement was signed last week.

A senior executive from Excalibur Army (part of the Czechoslovak Group) said that talks about possible deliveries of new armoured cars, rocket launchers, and howitzers are progressing very slowly.

Source: Possible firearm sales were also discussed by Colt CZ Group. This Czech holding company owns the well-established U.S. rifle and carbine maker.