Vietnam’s growing economy, and China’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea, are pushing the country to begin a long-delayed military modernization program. Most of the equipment comes from Vietnam’s traditional Russian sources, but a purchase of Next-Gen DHC-6 Twin Otter maritime patrol aircraft from Canada showed the country’s willingness to consider other suppliers. Now comes word that Vietnam’s new Russian Gepard Class corvettes may be joined by another Western entry: 4 SIGMA ships from the Dutch Schelde shipyard.
SIGMA actually stands for Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach. Block construction has become almost routine for ships, but block design at this level is unique…
The SIGMA design uses standard, 7.2m sections, separated by bulkheads with watertight doors. That block size allows the ship to meet international requirements for surviving 6m wide damage to the ship. To add capabilities, people, or space, just add blocks to the design, and a base 50m OPV design can morph all the way to a 90m corvette (Indonesia) or even a full-featured 105m – 150m frigate (Morocco). Necessary standardization within compartment interfaces, beams, doors, portals, stairs and other key construction components adds more efficiencies.
Early reports in October 2011 indicated that an agreement was in progress, whereby the first 2 SIGMA ships would be built in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, and the last 2 would be built in Vietnam, under Dutch supervision. That would represent a big step forward for Vietnam’s shipbuilding industry.
SIGMA ships usually use Thales for combat systems and radars, and MBDA for missiles, but customers like Vietnam can change that if they want. Vietnam certainly has a long history with France, who would undoubtedly be interested in resuming some level of defense ties. On the other hand, compatibility with the Russian weapons on its other naval ships would offer advantages of its own. If they choose to change the SIGMA’s standard armament, the most likely substitutions involve incorporating a Russian 76.2mm AK-176M naval gun instead of Oto Melara’s 76mm, SA-18 very short range anti-aircraft missiles instead of MBDA’s Mistral, and/or Kh-53E anti-ship missiles, instead of the French Exocet
* Notícia publicada a Defense Industry Daily. El rearmament vietnamita en matèria naval, és tot un símptoma de la por que genera el creixement xinés. Sens dubte, les darreres declaracions dels mitjans estatals xinesos, no contribueixen a la calma.