Lacking funds, Vietnamese submarine never got off the ground

VietNamNet Bridge – In the past, some Vietnamese scientists and engineers spent many years designing submarines on their own. But their works were invariably suspended when the money ran out. Now, however, the debut of a new mini-submarine, developed by Nguyen Quoc Hoa with his own money, has breathed new life into the dream of a made-in-Vietnam submarine.


Dr Dinh Khac Minh, Head of the Ship Technology Institute, affirmed that Vietnam tried to build a submarine in 1967, during the war. A mock-up was set up, which could dive and resurface in a water tank. However, engineers could get no further with the prototype.

In 1990-1997, engineers of the institute decided to focus on the next-generation of mini-submarines.

“We focused our research on the power for the submarine’s operation. We defined the operation principles of the system, which helped improve its diving and floating capacity,” Minh said about his and his colleagues’ job at that time.

However, the achievements were modest,” Minh admitted.

And the engineers officially ended their submarine research when the institute became a dependent unit of the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin) rather than the Ministry of Transport.

As a part of a shipbuilding group, the institute’s main function is to receive the technology transfer to help Vinashin build big ships for export. The research side of its mission fell by the wayside.

“Vietnamese scientists have enthusiasm and the ability to invent. However, they need encouragement and support from the State,” Minh said after relating the story about the submarine mock-up.

In many cases, Vietnamese scientists finished the initial research on projects but could advance no further due to lack of funding. As a result, Vietnam could only create mock-ups or individual machines, but not manufacture machines in production scale.

“Vietnamese think that made-in-Vietnam products cannot be as good as foreign ones and that it would be better to import high-technology products instead of making them domestically,” Minh lamented. “We spent a lot of money on scientific research, but we could not gain brilliant achievements, because we just did things by halves.”

Vietnamese scientists have often complained that the scientific community cannot receive budgets large enough to serve their research works.

Dr Dinh Van Uu from the Hanoi University of Natural Sciences, who has headed many research teams, commented that the current budget allocation system is really unreasonable.

“You gain some initial achievements after spending VND2 billion. You just need VND500 million to compete your work and create finished products. However, the watchdog agency will tell you that you have no more time on the works and it cannot disburse any further money for the project,” Uu said.

“And then the watchdog agency begins allocating budgets for new projects, which start everything from the very beginning, while the half-done works are put in mothballs,” Minh added.

“There is no doubt about the ability of the Vietnamese scientists to approach advanced technologies. The problem now lies in the management mechanism,” Minh concluded.

VietNamNet Bridge