HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam is in talks with the Czech Republic on military supplies, including aircraft, radars, upgrades to armored vehicles and firearms, as Hanoi aims to diversify its Russian arsenal, a Czech government source told Reuters.
Security was one of the most important topics discussed by Czech Prime Minister Peter Fiala with Vietnamese leaders in a three-day visit to the country last week, the official said, noting that security companies were the largest component of the business delegation that accompanied Fiala.
The former Soviet satellite nation is seen as well placed to meet some of Vietnam’s growing security needs as its military companies excel at modifying Russian equipment and often make new equipment compatible with old Soviet weapons – a skill particularly well regarded in Vietnam where an estimated 80 % of the domestic arsenal comes from Russia.
Over the past two decades, Prague has already positioned itself as a major supplier of arms from the European Union to Vietnam, according to data from the Stockholm think tank SIPRI.
Hanoi has ordered 12 L-39NG light fighter jets in 2021 from Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody, with deliveries starting this year. The source, who attended the high-level meetings and asked not to be identified because the talks were internal, said there are talks to deliver more of these planes.
At the end of a meeting between Fiala and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the Vietnamese government said that “the two leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in the field of security and defence,” among other areas.
The official said Prague could support arms technology transfers and local manufacturing if major supply deals are concluded.
Of the 15 companies that made up the Czech business delegation, four were security companies. These are the Czechoslovakian Group, Colt CZ Group, Omniball and WestV Group, the official said.
The four companies did not respond to requests for comment.
Omnipol has a minority stake in Aero Vodochody and owns Aircraft Industries, the Czech manufacturer of the L 410 NG freighter, the sale of which was also discussed last week with Vietnamese military procurement officers, the official said. Similar talks were held in recent days with Indonesian civil officials and their Filipino counterparts as part of the Czech delegation’s tour of Asian countries.
The official said Omnipool officials also held talks in Vietnam about the potential sale of dual-use radars for installation at civilian and military airports.
In Hanoi, the STV Group and the CZ Group discussed potential contracts to upgrade Soviet-made Vietnamese tanks and armored vehicles with advanced technologies including communications equipment.
Under these contracts, companies can also provide spare parts and maintenance, the source said, noting that the talks are still preliminary and a new agreement was not signed last week.
An executive with Excalibur Army, part of the Czechoslovakian group, said talks about possible deliveries of armored vehicles, rocket launchers and howitzers are progressing very slowly.
There was no immediate comment from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry and the Czech Embassy in Hanoi.
The source said potential sales of the firearms were also discussed with Colt CZ Group, the Czech holding company that owns a well-established American maker of rifles and rifles.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Khanh Phu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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