According to recent Israeli media reports, Vietnam is looking to acquire the Indo-Israeli Barak 8 missile defense system.
A delegation of top-ranking officials from Vietnam’s Defense Ministry will visit Israel in September, reported Haaretz on August 18. During their visit, the Vietnamese defense officials will discuss the potential purchase of three Barak 8 missile defense systems from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
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The delegation will reportedly be headed by the deputy commander of Vietnam’s air force and the head of the country’s air defenses.
Vietnam already has the Israeli-made Spyder air defense system purchased in 2015 from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems for US$ 600 million, the largest-ever military deal between Israel and Vietnam.
Reports suggest that Rafael is trying to convince the Vietnamese Air Force to buy three more Spyder systems, but Hanoi is not happy with the company and is instead giving priority to IAI.
The Vietnamese delegation will also meet with the head of the Israel Air Force, the commander responsible for Israel’s air defenses, and other senior Israeli defense officials during their visit.
Barak-8 Missile System
The Barak-8 missile defense system is jointly developed by IAI, India’s Defense Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Israel’s Directorate of Research and Development (DDR&D), Elta Systems, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
The Barak-8 system is designed to defend against various airborne threats, including helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship missiles, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. It can hit targets with pinpoint accuracy up to a range of 70 kilometers.
The missile defense system can be deployed on naval and land-based platforms, and the vertical launch capability of the Barak family of interceptor missiles enables 360-degree coverage.
IAI claims the system’s highly advanced seeker can work under all weather conditions and detect threats with low radar cross-sections (RCS) or high maneuverability. Also, the seeker uses a wide and narrow radio frequency (RF) beam, which can lock on to any target at any altitude and thus provide defense against an array of land, air, and sea threats.
After the successful development of Barak-8, IAI further developed the new Barak-MX multi-layered air defense system, which comprises different interceptor missiles for different ranges, just like the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system.
Most importantly, the Barak-8 missile system is combat-proven. In 2020, during the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Barak 8 interceptor missile reportedly shot down a Russian-made Iskander short-range ballistic missile fired by Armenia.
The land-based version of the Barak-8, operated by the Indian Army and the Air Force, is known as MR-SAM, and an extended-range system is currently under development, known as LR-SAM.
Together with the modern multi-purpose radars employed on naval warships or air defense systems, Barak-8 can simultaneously engage multiple targets in a ship’s defense.
A Win For India; Bad News For China
Vietnam purchasing the Barak-8 missile system will be a big win for India after a recent purchase of the Indo-Russian BrahMos anti-ship missile system by the Philippines for US$ 375 million.
India is constantly increasing its defense exports, which will strengthen its domestic defense production, as part of the government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant) initiatives.
The production of the Barak-8 missile is undertaken by an Indo-Israeli joint venture, KRAS, between Rafael, Kalyani Group, and Bharat Dynamics Limited.
Vietnam’s interest in the Barak-8 missile defense system comes against Hanoi’s concern over China’s belligerence while asserting its maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS) region, which cover Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
While Vietnam tries to maintain cordial relations with China despite the territorial dispute, in recent years, tensions between the two countries have remained high, adversely impacting the fishing and natural resource exploration activities in the contested waters.
The most recent example was in March when Vietnam accused China of violating its EEZ by conducting military drills in waters between the Hainan province and Vietnam.
As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, Vietnam is also interested in buying the Brahmos missile system from India.
Brahmos or Barak-8 missile systems can enable countries like Vietnam to employ their version of the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy devised by China to counter the US Navy in the SCS region.
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