The US is in talks with Vietnam over the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to the Southeast Asian country.
Its estimated size is not known. However, it could be the biggest-ever defense deal between the two Cold War adversaries.
“We have a very productive and promising security relationship with the Vietnamese and we do see interesting movement from them in some US systems, in particular anything that can help them better monitor their maritime domain, perhaps transport aircraft and some other platforms,” Reuters quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
Reliance on Russian Arms
Washington is “considering structuring special financing terms” for the deal to help cash-strapped Vietnam wean itself away from its reliance on cheaper Russian defense imports.
“Part of what we’re working on internally as the US government is being creative about how we could try to provide better financing options to Vietnam to get them things that might be really useful to them,” the official added.
The entire combat aircraft fleet of the Vietnamese Air Force is of Russian origin, including Su-22, Su-27, and Su-30 jets.
Moscow has supplied an estimated 80 percent of Vietnam’s arms exports annually since 2016, when an arms embargo was lifted from Hanoi, according to Reuters.
In comparison, the US has supplied $400 million in weapons to Vietnam in the last decade, including coast guard ships and trainer aircraft.
Eying Larger Share of Vietnamese Budget
Vietnam spends about $2 billion annually on arms imports.
Earlier this month, Vietnam upgraded Washington to its highest diplomatic status, equivalent to China and Russia.
Hanoi understands the need to diversify its defense imports, Reuters wrote, citing US officials, adding that Washington is hopeful of increasing its defense exports to Vietnam in the long term.