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US firms in talks to sell Vietnam helicopters, drones — report

US defence firms and top
Vietnamese government officials have discussed supplying
military gear, including helicopters and drones, two sources
with knowledge of the talks told the Reuters news agency, a new sign the country
may reduce its reliance on Russian arms.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon,
Textron and IM Systems Group met with the officials on
the sidelines of the country’s first large-scale arms fair last
week, according to the US-ASEAN Business Council, the industry
body that arranged the meetings.

A source who was present at the weapons discussions said
they involved the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of
National Defence.

The preliminary talks, which may not lead to any deals, come
as the Southeast Asian nation seeks new suppliers and the
Ukraine conflict strains the capabilities of Russia, for decades
Vietnam’s main military partner. 

The military aggression, which Moscow calls a
“special operation”, has also led to strict sanctions against

“This marks the beginning of a more open-minded Vietnam
People’s Army to US weapons, and a willingness to engage
deeper with the US in defence as a whole,” said Nguyen The
Phuong, a military expert and researcher at the University of
New South Wales.

Military deals with the US face many potential hurdles,
including that Washington might block arms sales over human
rights; concerns about the impact on Hanoi’s tense relations
with China; high costs; and whether US-made systems can be
integrated with Vietnam’s legacy weapons, analysts said.

The person who attended the meetings said the companies
offered a range of military gear and had “promising” discussions
about non-lethal equipment, including helicopters for internal
security, plus drones, radars and other systems to keep watch on
the air, the sea and space.

Vietnam’s defence and foreign ministries did not respond to
a request for comment.

Pentagon mulls sending 100-mile strike weapon to Ukraine: report

Deals with suppliers from Israel, India

A second person familiar with the matter said talks on
drones and helicopters began before the arms fair and have
involved more weapons.

Lockheed Martin, which showcased fighter and military
transport planes at the event, declined to comment.

A Boeing spokesperson referred questions to Vietnam’s Defence Ministry. Raytheon, Textron and IM Systems Group did not
respond to requests for comment.

The discussions show the United States’ growing efforts to
gain influence with Hanoi, nearly half a century after the end
of the Vietnam War. 

Since an arms embargo was lifted in 2016,
US defence exports to Vietnam have been limited to coastguard
ships and trainer aircraft, while Russia has supplied about 80 percent of the country’s arsenal.

The arms fair attracted dozens of defence companies from 30
countries, all hoping to get a share of the estimated $2 billion
Vietnam spends annually in arms imports amid on-off tensions
with its neighbour China.

Both sources, who asked not to be named because the talks
were confidential, said Lockheed Martin separately had
discussions with Vietnam about a new communication and defence
satellite, which could replace one of the two from the US
company Hanoi already operates.

The US embassy in Hanoi declined to comment, but
Ambassador Marc Knapper has said the US stood ready to discuss
any military item Vietnam might want to acquire.

The US military has already supplied two relatively small
naval cutters and transferred two T-6 Texan trainer aircraft, of
which another 10 will be shipped by 2027. It has also pledged
Boeing ScanEagle reconnaissance drones, which have not yet been

Sources and analysts said Vietnam is also considering deals with suppliers from Israel, India, and European and Northeast Asian countries. In the last decade, Israel has been the second-biggest seller of weapons to Vietnam after Russia.

READ MORE: Final US defence policy bill removes curbs on F-16 sale to Türkiye

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