Vietnam’s Gepard-class frigate Ly Thai To on November 28 docked at Belawan, Indonesia for the ASEAN – Russia Naval Exercise (ARNEX), the first-ever drill conducting freedom of civil navigation.
|Vietnam's HQ-012 Ly Thai To frigate at Cam Ranh Military Port. Photo: Ministry of National Defence
HQ-012 Ly Thai To, which left Cam Ranh Military Port on November 23, will participate in ARNEX which will be held on December 1-2 in Indonesia’s territorial waters off the coast of North Sumatra.
The Vietnamese crew will join a series of activities namely communications, formation, search and rescue during the two-day event that is aimed to implement agreements from the 14th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting chaired by Vietnam in 2020.
It also helps boost Vietnam’s support in promoting the ASEAN – Russia relationship.
According to the Russian Mission to ASEAN, the exercise is aimed at increasing interoperability between the navies of ASEAN member states and Russia to ensure the safety of the maritime economic activity and civil navigation.
It will be conducted in two phases named Harbor Phase (virtually) and Sea Phase. Russia said its navy will be represented by the Russian Pacific Fleet destroyer Admiral Panteleyev.
The ASEAN-Russia Naval Exercise was approved during the 4th ASEAN-Russia summit on October 28 that marked the attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This year, ASEAN and Russia mark the 30th anniversary of their relations. Russia has been a full-scale partner in dialogue with the association since 1996. In 2016, at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi, the sides adopted a declaration and an action plan to elevate the relationship to a strategic partnership.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Russia, China, and the United States are among 11 dialogue partners of ASEAN.
ARNEX is the third of such ASEAN+1 maritime drills, after the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise in 2018, and the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise in 2019.
Managed by the Vietnam People’s Navy, HQ-012 Ly Thai To ship was built by the Zelenodolsk shipyard in Russia with more convenient maintenance and operation, improved seaworthiness, higher maneuverability, and is better able to handle a range of situations.
Commissioned in August 2011, Ly Thai To is designed to perform searches, track and destroy floating targets, air defense, anti-submarine, escort, and patrol territorial waters and special areas with economic rights. It can enter combat independently or in squadrons and is equipped with stealth technology, to present a minimum presence on enemy radar screens.
In August 2021, the ship participated in the joint maritime exercise with INS Ranvijay and INS Kora in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam) during the deployment of Indian Navy ships. The activities aimed to “consolidate the strong bond shared by the two navies,” according to the Indian Ministry of Defense.