In late May, Vietnam took delivery of the retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau (WHEC-722) as well as six new Metal Shark Defiant 45-foot pilothouse patrol vessels from the United States. The ex-Morgenthau, one of 12 Hamilton (WHEC-715)-class cutters, was decommissioned on 18 April and will serve with the Vietnamese Coast Guard as the CSB 8020. Displacing more than 3,000 tons, the 378-foot cutter was built in Louisiana and commissioned in 1969 during the height of the conflict in Southeast Asia. After entering service, she conducted underway replenishment operations, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam. She later became the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to have women permanently assigned. The six smaller Defiant boats also will operate as part of the Vietnamese Coast Guard, which is responsible for maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and exclusive economic zone and border patrol duties.
The Vietnamese Navy also received a major subsurface enhancement as its fifth and sixth Improved Kilo-class (Project 636) submarines were delivered by Russia and commissioned into service on 28 February. These two new boats are the final St. Petersburg-built submarines ordered by Vietnam under a 2009 contract. Named the Da Nang and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, respectively, the fifth and sixth units join sisters Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, and Khanh Hoa, which began entering service in 2014. Widely considered Vietnam’s most potent naval asset, each boats is fitted with six bow torpedo tubes and can be armed with a mix of torpedoes, antiship missiles, and mines. Displacing some 4,000 tons submerged, the Project 636 Improved Kilo-class submarines operate with a crew of 52, have a top underwater speed of 17 knots, and are thought to have a maximum operating depth of roughly 1,000 feet.
On 27 April the Russian Moma-class (Project 861M) intelligence-collection ship Liman, pictured here at anchor, suffered a collision with a civilian freighter and sank in the Black Sea off the coast of Istanbul. It appears that the 267-foot Togo-flagged livestock carrier Youzarsif H struck the 240-foot, 1,500-ton, Russian spy ship during heavy fog while the ships were preparing to sail through the Bosporus. Damage to the Liman included a severe hull breach below the waterline, forcing evacuation and eventual loss of the vessel. All 78 members of the Liman’s crew were rescued by lifeboats sent out from the Turkish Directorate General of Coastal Safety. Media sources indicate that specialized Russian salvage vessels and diving personnel soon sailed for the collision site to assess the loss and potentially attempt to retrieve sensitive information, and the Russians may even salvage the lost vessel in the future. Russia’s Moma-class intelligence-collection ships were built in Gdansk, Poland, and entered service during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Mr. Wertheim, a defense consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, is the author of the 16th edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, published by the Naval Institute Press (see www.usni.org ).