The Vietnamese military has discretely moved new, highly mobile rocket launchers to five bases in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in recent months, Reuters reported today.

Foreign officials and analysts claim the launchers in question are the EXTRA (Extended Range Artillery) rocket system which Hanoi acquired recently from Israel. With a range of 150 km and a circular error probability (CEP) of about 10 m, EXTRA rounds have a 150 kg payload that can carry high explosives or cluster-bomb-like munitions. The EXTRA can be used against a variety of targets, including runways and military installations, in the contested area. IMI Systems, the manufacturer of the launcher, says the EXTRA is best suited for attacks against command and communication centers, logistic installations, transportation infrastructure and others. It is also reportedly very effective as a counter to amphibious landings.

The light-footprint system, which IMI says ensures the “easy transfer of firepower between sectors,” can be deployed on islets and reefs. The cluster launch tubes can also be mounted on trucks.

Officials say the launchers are protected against aerial surveillance and have yet to be test fired. Sources told Reuters the launchers can be armed and fully operational within 48 to 72 hours.

According to analysts, China’s military installations on Subi, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef could all be within range.

Taiwan is one of the claimant countries in the region and controls Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the largest island in the Spratlys.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry says reports of the deployment are “inaccurate.”

Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam’s Deputy Defence Minister, told journalists in Singapore in June that Vietnam did not have such launchers in the Spratlys, but reserved the right to do so to protect its interests.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White