Vietnam Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN; aka Vietnam People's Army, VPA): Ground Forces, Navy (includes naval infantry), Air Force and Air Defense, Border Defense Force, and Vietnam Coast Guard; Vietnam People's Public Security Ministry; Vietnam Civil Defense Force (2023)

note 1: the Public Security Ministry is responsible for internal security and controls the national police, a special national security investigative agency, and other internal security units, including specialized riot police regiments

note 2: the Vietnam Coast Guard was established in 1998 as the Vietnam Marine Police and renamed in 2013; Vietnam officially established a maritime self-defense force (civilian militia) in 2010 after the National Assembly passed the Law on Militia and Self-Defense Forces in 2009; the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance (VFRS), established in 2013, is responsible for patrolling, monitoring for fishing violations, and carrying out fishery inspections; it is armed, allowed to use force if necessary, and works in tandem with the Vietnam Coast Guard

Military expenditures

2.4% of GDP (2021 est.)

2.4% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.3% of GDP (2019 est.)

2.3% of GDP (2018 est.)

2.3% of GDP (2017 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

information is limited and varied; estimated 450,000 active-duty troops (390,000 ground; 30,000 naval; 30,000 air); estimated 40,000 Border Defense Force and Coast Guard (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the PAVN is armed largely with weapons and equipment from Russia and the former Soviet Union; in recent years, Russia has remained the most important supplier of newer PAVN military equipment, but Vietnam has diversified arms purchases to include more than a dozen other countries including Israel, South Korea, Ukraine, and the US; Vietnam has a limited domestic defense industry (2022)

Military service age and obligation

18-27 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service for men and women (in practice only men are drafted); service obligation is between 24 (Army, Air Defense) and 36 (Navy and Air Force) months (2023)

Military - note

the PAVN is the military arm of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and responsible to the Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest party organ on military policy; the CMC is led by the CPV General Secretary

the PAVN is one of the region’s largest and has participated in numerous conflicts since its founding in the mid-1940s, including the First (1946-54) and Second (1950s-1975) Indochina Wars, the Cambodian-Vietnamese War (1978-1989), and the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979); the PAVN’s current missions include protecting the country's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interests; in recent years, it has increased focus on protecting the country’s maritime economy and sovereignty; it also assists with natural disasters and is heavily involved in economic projects, including electrical infrastructure, oil and gas services, hydroelectric projects, aviation and seaport services, telecommunications, and the shipbuilding industry, while military-owned factories and enterprises produce weapons and equipment; the Ground Forces are spread throughout the country in approximately 8 regional commands, 4 operational corps, and dozens of divisions and brigades, including some that are maintained at cadre strength and filled in wartime by an estimated 5 million reserves; the Navy in recent years has received increased government focus for procurement efforts because of the rise in territorial disputes in the South China Sea and has a growing combat force of about 20 frigates, corvettes, and fast-attack surface vessels, plus 8 attack submarines; the Air Force has a mix of approximately 75 Soviet-era and Russian-made combat aircraft (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reported that incidents in the territorial and offshore waters of Vietnam increased from one in 2021 to two in 2022;  the South China Sea remains a high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia

NOTE: The information regarding Vietnam on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Vietnam 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Vietnam 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.