Recently Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) inked a deal with Vietnam worth 160mn dollars to supply 3 Heron Type 1 unmanned aerial vehicles. While the reports have not been officially confirmed by either of the two countries or the firm in question, they have nonetheless spotlighted the deepening defense ties between the two countries which has been developing in recent years.
The reports also suggested that the UAVs will be equipped with capabilities to take off and land autonomously and will be capable of operating in extreme weather conditions.
The Heron UAVs being procured by Vietnam will be able to operate up to a range of about 350 kilometers over periods of up to 50 hours and will be able to carry payloads of up to a quarter of a ton - all according to the mission on which it has been sent. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) operations of up to 52 hours duration at up to 10.5 km (35,000 ft). It has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight, but the effective operational maximal flight duration is less, depending on payload and flight profile.
It is to be noted that bilateral ties between Vietnam and Israel were officially established back in 1993, notable developments in the realm of defense have only been explored and begun to take off over the past few years. Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for defense cooperation in 2015, and several inroads have been traversed and started to take shape since then in various areas including Vietnamese purchases of weapons systems and explorations in realms such as technology transfer to contribute to improve the defense industries of Vietnam.
This budding cooperation has continued well on into 2018 as well, with both sides commemorating the 25th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic ties and Israel was commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel. Indeed, just in October, both sides sat down to have their first-ever iteration of the formal defense dialogue in yet another notable development for this aspect of ties.
One of the items that has been in focus within the dialogs of this defense relationship has been unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Vietnam has previously ordered Israeli UAVs for military usage in past years, including the Orbiter. Over the past few months, there has been sporadic reporting about Israeli firms selling more drones to Vietnam, with suggestions that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was offering the Heron MALE UAV and Israel Aeronautics Defense Systems offering the Dominator. The reports suggest that the deal, which had seen a period of uncertainty and delays, had finally been agreed after the personal intervention of the Israeli Ministry of Defense director general, General (res) Udi Adam.
It must be noted that just last month, IAI lost bids worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the US firm General Atomics for two major tenders for UAVs by Belgium and Australia. Both bids were won by General Atomics.
Over the past decade, Israeli defense sales to Vietnam amounted to $ 1.5 billion. In addition to IAI, which sold Earth remote sensing satellite to Vietnam, Rafael and Elbit Systems are also active in the local market. Several contracts for technical intelligence equipment were also obtained by VERINT, which has previous experience in Vietnam.
[Defence Industry Daily, The Diplomat]