In the first such transfer between the two nations, India had announced the gifting of an Indian Navy corvette to Vietnam in June. This will be the first time that a fully operational corvette has been gifted by India to any country.
Khukri-class corvette set sail to Vietnam on June 28 from the east Indian port of Visakhapatnam. After a brief port call in Singapore, the missile corvette entered Cam Ranh International Port on July 8, where it was received by the Vietnamese People’s Navy (VPN). However, the vessel will not be formally handed over to Vietnam until the end of July, once training of VPN personnel is complete
The transfer of INS KIRPAN was announced on June 19 by Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh. Minister of National Defence of Vietnam General Phan Van Gang had visited India from June 17 – 19 to review bilateral defence cooperation between India and Vietnam.
INS KIRPAN is the third ship of the Khukri-class and was commissioned in January 1991. The Khukri-class was built as part of Project 25. The Navy desired a ship similar to the Soviet Petya-class, which it had acquired in the late 1960s, but with the capability to carry a helicopter. While imports were mulled initially, none met the Navy’s requirements and design work of Project 25 by the Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design began in 1976.
The ships would be fitted with Soviet weapons with a mix of Soviet and Indian sensors. Orders for the first two corvettes, KHUKRI and KUTHAR, were placed with Mazagon Docks in 1986. Mazagon Docks then acted as the lead yard and helped GRSE which built the next two corvettes. The first of these was Kirpan, which was delivered to the Navy in 1990. Four more corvettes of the Kora class were built by GRSE under Project 25A. The primary improvement of the Kora class was in armament, with the corvettes featuring 16 Kh-35 missiles instead of the four Styx missiles onboard the Khukris.
The KIRPAN is a familiar vessel to the VPN given its array of Soviet equipment such as the Styx missiles which it has operated for decades. The VPN is the last operator of the Petya-class with five vessels in active service. India is a potential source for acquiring suitable replacements for this class with its recent focus on becoming a major defence exporter.
The navies of India and Vietnam engage extensively through frequent operational interactions, dialogues and information sharing mechanisms. The two nations have long collaborated on training, with 60 slots in Indian military training institutions reserved for Vietnam. This number is likely to increase soon after a request from Vietnam. India has trained VPN sailors for operating its six Kilo-class submarines and also trained pilots for Vietnam’s fleet of Su-30s. The cooperation also extends to supply of spares, ship repair and regular goodwill visits by ships and delegations. In 2016, a $100 million line of credit was extended to Vietnam using which 12 L&T High Speed Patrol Boats were acquired for Vietnam’s Border Guard. Five boats were made in India by L&T with the remaining built in Vietnam by Hong Ha shipyard. The boats were formally handed over to Vietnam in June 2022. Vietnam has long been reported to be interested in India’s Brahmos supersonic cruise missile and Akash surface to air missile system. The Brahmos has been ordered by the Philippine Marine Corps with the Philippine Army set to follow suit. Indonesia is also a potential customer for the system.
India is one of the three countries with which Vietnam has a comprehensive strategic partnership, the other two being Russia and China. India’s ties with Vietnam are often seen through the lens of countering China, with the many territorial disputes both nations have with the latter. For its part, India has been making a visible effort to mark its presence in South East Asia, ramping up ties and security cooperation across the region.
Source: Adithya Krishna Menon