[Click on Defense Industry Daily diagram to expand greatly] Improved Russian Kilo (Project 636) for Vietman - which may have sufficient improvements to be classed as a Project 677 ("Lada").
-Excerpts of the Financial Times June 14, 2011 which reports:
"Vietnam shift could see return of US ships"
...The historic military facility [at Cam Ranh Bay] located within one of Asia’s best natural harbours, is at the centre of a strategic push from Vietnam to counter China’s growing assertiveness over disputed waters [especially the Spratly Islands] in the commercially important South China Sea....
...Cam Ranh Bay, houses Vietnam’s small navy. The Bay extends for 20 miles north-south and is up to 10 miles wide...last year, Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister, said he would let foreign naval ships use the base again to dock, resupply and undergo repairs on a commercial basis.
The move may generate some cash once the now crumbling facilities are refurbished, security analysts say. However, the main justification for opening up the bay is to balance China’s naval dominance in the South China Sea, which encompasses key global trade routes, valuable fisheries and is thought to sit atop vast oil and gas reserves.
“Who’s going to take up the offer to visit?” says Carl Thayer, an expert on security in the South China Sea at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. “Precisely those navies that China doesn’t want in the South China Sea, including the Americans, South Koreans Australians, and Indians.”
One senior Asian defence official argues that the US will be keenest to take advantage of the opportunity to use the base, which offers great protection from storms and is located close to key commercial shipping lanes and the disputed [Spratly] islands. “The US has a Pacific fleet and it’s been more aggressive than many other countries in trying to build closer contacts with Vietnam to counter China’s rise,” he says.
The planned reopening of the base to foreign naval vessels is a sign of the shifting global strategic sands, with China’s inexorable rise causing concern among those such as Vietnam and the US, pushing these old enemies closer together.
Although Vietnam has developed deep economic and political ties with its larger northern neighbour since the 1990s, the relationship is coming under pressure because of China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, according to Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, who studies maritime security.
China, which recently built a large naval base on Hainan island, to the north of the disputed waters, increasingly has the capability to deploy coercive diplomacy in the South China Sea, says Mr Storey. Recent incidents where Chinese maritime surveillance vessels have tried to sabotage Vietnamese oil exploration ships show Beijing also has the political will to do so.
Hanoi has responded by seeking to internationalise the territorial dispute, calling on other claimants to some of the contested Paracel and Spratly Islands – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan – to hold joint talks and attempting to bring in the US as a mediator.
Despite macroeconomic difficulties, Vietnam has boosted its spending on military hardware, agreeing to buy a number of Sukhoi SU-30 jetfighters and six Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia.
Once delivered in the next year or two, the submarines are expected to be based at Cam Ranh Bay, which analysts say Russia has agreed to refurbish as part of the $2bn contract to supply the craft.
...changing dynamics of global security mean that, in a twist of fate, American and Russian ships may soon be back at Cam Ranh Bay, this time working alongside each other and the Vietnamese to counterbalance an ever stronger China.
BACKGROUND ON VIETNAM'S 2009 KILO PURCHASE
http://rusnavy.com/news/navy/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=9667 "Rosoboronexport signed a delivery contract on six Project 636M diesel electric submarines to Vietnam during visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Russia on Dec 15, 2009. All subs will be built at Admiralteyskie Verfi shipyard in St. Petersburg; rate of delivery is one sub per year. Total contract value of submarines construction makes $2.1 bln. Considering establishment of appropriate coastal infrastructure in Vietnam, delivery of arms and other systems, total sum could reach $3.2 bln." [Vietnam's Kilos may have sufficient improvements to class them as Project 677 "Lada" Submarines.]
On the Kilo see also http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/kilo/ and