Vietnam gets new coast patrol planes amid sea spat

3rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Vietnam has received the first of three new coastal patrol planes, according to the aircraft's manufacturer, as it further upgrades its maritime defences amid tensions in the South China Sea.

Vietnam's Marine Police have taken delivery of their first propeller-driven C212-400, Madrid-based Airbus Military said in a statement dated Monday.

"It will primarily be used in its maritime patrol role and carry out missions" including coastal surveillance, operations against illegal fishing, drug traffic and smuggling, said the firm, a subsidiary of France's Airbus.

Airbus Military did not give the purchase price of the aircraft but said a second C212 will be delivered later this year followed by a third in 2012.

China's increasing maritime assertiveness over potentially resource-rich islands in the South China Sea has sparked regional concern, particularly in Vietnam and the Philippines in recent months.

The three nations, along with Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, have a tangle of competing sovereignty claims over the disputed territories.

Vietnamese fishermen working in the waters have reported numerous seizures of their catches and equipment by Chinese vessels in recent years.

Much of Vietnam's military hardware is antiquated.

Last year a Canadian company, Viking Air, said it had finalised with the Vietnamese navy a purchase agreement for six amphibious aircraft, some of which are designed specifically for marine patrol.

That followed the signing in December 2009 between Vietnam and Russia of a major arms deal reported to involve the purchase of six submarines.

Analysts said the deal aimed to bolster claims against Beijing in the South China Sea.

Russian media have reported that the aircraft order involved 12 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 warplanes.

© 2011 AFP

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