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Monday, November 23, 2020, 07:00 (GMT+7)
Developing a self-reliant, modern, dual-purpose Vietnamese defence industry

 “Fostering the development of a self-reliant, modern, and dual-purpose defence and security industry” is mentioned in the Draft Political Report for submission to the 13th National Party Congress. This is an important orientation of strategic significance to meeting the requirements set by the Military build-up and the Homeland protection in the new situation.

Becoming independent and self-reliant in weapons and technical equipment is a target for any country in the world, which depends on both internal and external factors, especially on each country’s practical capacity. Therefore, developing a “self-reliant, modern, and dual-purpose” national defence industry as a goal set by the Draft Political Report for submission to the 13th National Party Congress represents a new point compared to the previous orientations for building and developing Vietnam’s defence industry mentioned in the Party’s resolutions. This direction plays a core role and acts as a lodestar for all activities relating to defence industry in the foreseeable future. And it is entirely consistent with the Party’s military-defence and national development guidelines in the new situation and the trend of defence industry development across the globe.

First of all, with reference to the criterion of being “self-reliant.”

In the history of national construction and protection, basically our people manufactured weapons against foreign invaders by themselves, creating the “self-reliant” will as a noteworthy feature in our Homeland defence culture in general and our military culture in particular. Since the inception of the Communist Party of Vietnam, it has led our wars for national liberation and protection with self-reliance in weapons and technical equipment as its consistent political strategy, thus laying a foundation for establishing our first weaponry workshops and developing them into our present-day defence industry. Being “self-reliant” serves as a long-lasting value and our Party, State, and people’s political resolve to inherit our ancestors’ tradition of fighting foreign invaders and defending the country.

Being “self-reliant” in weapons and equipment expresses the defence industry’s capacity. That is a kind of pure capacity when both internal and external factors are basically stable and different resources for the manufacturing of weapons and equipment are provided. However, in order to be “self-reliant,” our weapons and equipment must be 100% localised to meet the requirements set by combat readiness and they must be unique, creative, and secret in accordance with the people’s war art. Thus, it is vital to establish a closed chain from production, transfer, and training to exercise so as to propagate our combat strength, introduce our localised weapons and equipment’s unique characteristics to international friends, and build up our people’s faith. That has been clearly demonstrated in the manufacturing of our infantry weapons and ammo. Vietnam possesses diverse product categories and it is self-reliant in research, manufacture, production line, resources, general assembly, and shooting test as a closed chain. It should be noted that Vietnam has mastered the most sensitive technologies for producing propellants, explosives, detonators, and fire tools. The determination to stop acquiring foreign infantry weapons and equipment and allow our infantry force to move straight to modernity by 2030 has fully proved our “self-reliance.”  

However, “self-reliance” does not mean that we isolate ourselves from the world; we must take advantage of our new advantages and political, economic, and defence relationships to integrate our defence industry into the global arms and military technology market. Doing so will enable us to proactively select our partners, reduce our dependence on suppliers, and diversify resources and solutions for developing our defence industry. Emphasis should be placed on improving our competitiveness and cooperative effectiveness to encourage the export of our home-grown military products.

If a war occurred, our country would be strategically isolated, embargoed and attacked. “Self-reliance” will be seen as our survival ability in wartime. Weapons and equipment must opportunely satisfy the war requirements. Therefore, there should be plans for disposing and building facilities to research and manufacture weaponry in our strategic rear zones in line with our national industry to allow us to mobilise industries, maintain production during wars or embargoes, and stably ensure on-the-spot resources for combat.

Second, regarding the criteria of being “modern and dual-purpose.”

There are many different models for developing defence industry around the world. Rich nations prioritise the development of state-of-the-art weapons. Some countries sacrifice their socio-economic benefits and maximise their resources to manufacture weapons and equipment, while others develop dual-purpose weaponry in accordance with their capacity. Selection of those models depends on each country’s political ideology, goal, conditions, context, history and cultural tradition. However, most of the nations across the globe adopt the dual-purpose model to be self-reliant in weapons in their own way. Hence, developing a “modern, dual-purpose” defence industry is appropriate to the world trend and our Party and State’s guidelines on “gaining a head start by taking a shortcut” to take advantage of great opportunities created by the 4th industrial revolution.

They are two important criteria and closely connected with each other, and they will allow us to assess the effectiveness of defence industry development. Progress in military technology and the 4th industrial revolution has been forcing us to “exceed the average development threshold” as a strategic requirement. More specifically, we must accelerate the development of new, hi-tech, guided, and integrated weapons instead of designing and producing “mechanical” weapons only. While technologies for manufacturing infantry weapons are basically used for the military, technologies for hi-tech weapons are considerably dual-purpose. Technologies for military missiles, radars, and aircraft are very similar to those for satellite missiles, meteorological, maritime, and aerial radars, and civilian planes. The manufacturing of electronic circuits and control software for weapons and military equipment is completely compatible with the designing of pieces of trade software. Thus, the criterion of being “modern” can’t be separated from “dual-purpose” benefits in the process of defence industry development.

As Vietnam’s economy and industry are being developed on the basis of digital technology, we must apply achievements in the 4th industrial revolution to “modernising” our defence industry. We must build and develop digital space and combine virtualisation and real technologies to form a new production mode. “Modernisation” will not be applied to each type of weapons and equipment only; it must be directed towards system integration to create the synergy, achieve a breakthrough in features, and establish a smart system with a combination of many “smart weapons.” Thus, we must have smart technologies, human resources and administration. To reach that long-term goal, it is necessary to (1) successfully develop a number of “smart weapons” and “smart defence industry factories,” (2) renew and develop the infrastructures of digital technology, hi-tech fields, and dual-purpose production, (3) digitalise defence industry management and business administration within units, (4) build and develop high-calibre human resources, and (5) encourage cooperation with other countries, the specialisation process, and the export of our arms.

The criterion of being “dual-purpose” is also expressed in technological capacity, human resources, infrastructure, products, and markets. Normally, the newest technological achievements are applied to the military, and defence-economic production acts as a trial run for the civilian purpose. However, the adoption of new technological advances to defence production requires direct or indirect involvement of domestic institutes and production facilities. In other words, defence industry serves as a bridge between national industry and defence-security mission.

As for Vietnam’s defence industry, many issues in the modernisation plan have yet to be settled. The variety of technological levels is demonstrated in the personnel structure. The low rate of high-quality human resources is a formidable barrier to our goal. Hence, we must formulate a strategic project with proper, feasible steps. There will not be a general formula for every defence industry unit. We must employ a “multi-speed road map” in line with our “multi-level” background. Defence industry development must be focalised. Several models must keep pace with the 4th industrial revolution, while some others must concentrate on modernising production phases or factories.

To reach the criteria of being “self-reliant, modern and dual-purpose,” it is essential to work towards effective measures together with scientific-technological capability, human resources, and institutions as the three most important elements. Concerning the scientific-technological capability, priority should be given to effectively applying technological achievements, taking part in the 4th industrial revolution, employing the strategy to “gain a head start by taking a shortcut” in some military and dual-purpose technologies, and modernising production lines, research centres, laboratories, and technical facilities to make a positive change in designing and manufacturing products with special tactical and technical features. With regard to human resources, in order to attract talents, it is important to renew the preferential treatment policy. We should honour and encourage high-quality staff members, assign them important tasks, formulate strategies and mechanisms for human resources in a stable, long-term manner, and provide sufficient facilities and opportunities for them to develop their professional competence and gain scientific-technological information from our country and the world. With reference to institutions, we must renew our way of thinking, approaches, and relevant mechanisms, such as organisational structure, management system, and disposition planning in an advanced, modern, compact, and dynamic fashion. Defence industry enterprises must be restructured to meet the requirements set by connection, assignment, and specialisation under the management mechanisms of national industry and international integration so that they will be competitive enough in both domestic and foreign markets.

Besides, our Party, State, and Military should express their political resolve, remain steadfast in their long-term strategy, and build solid legal institutions and consistent policies to establish a synchronous system and properly specialise the production process both vertically and horizontally. Things mentioned above play a key role in mobilising finance, scientific-technological capability, and human resources to promote the national synergy and develop Vietnam’s defence industry under the guidelines towards 2030 and beyond.

Maj. Gen., Associate Prof. DOAN HUNG MINH, PhD

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