The Vietnam People's Army (VPA) is official name for the
armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
During the Second
Indochinese War (Vietnam War) (1957–1975), the U.S. incorrectly
referred to it as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), or People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and this term is commonly found throughout Vietnam War-related subjects. The name in Vietnamese is Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam, and has always been officially known as such since its initial formation in 1944. The VPA was not
the Việt Cộng
(although certain elements disguised as such occasionally and after the
reunification of the country in 1976, all former Việt Cộng forces that
had not been demobilized were incorporated into the VPA). During the
war against the French (First Indochina War, 1946-1954), the VPA was
often referred to as the Việt Minh even though Việt Minh was the name
of the overall independence movement that preceded the founding of the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945. The VPA now includes the: Vietnam People's Ground Forces
(including VPA Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defence Forces),
Vietnam People's Navy (including VPN Naval infantry), Vietnam People's
Air Force, and Coast Guard.
The predecessor of the VPA was the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation, an organization that was formed by President Hồ Chí Minh on December 22, 1944 to drive the French colonialists and Japanese occupiers from Vietnam.
General Võ Nguyên Giáp was the first Commander-in-Chief of VPA and the fourth Minister of National Defence (after Chu Van Tan, Phan Anh, Ta Quang Buu).
This force was to launch many offensives, and eventually survive
counter-attacks by United States forces in what was known as the
Vietnam War in the United States. They would later prevail over the
US-backed Saigon government and in 1975 successfully militarily defeat
the former South Vietnamese government.
They would also participate in incursions into Cambodia, toppling the democidal Khmer Rouge.
During peaceful periods, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam's workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, in order to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA is involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications.
The Vietnam People’s Army today
The President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the Commander-in-Chief, while the Minister of National Defense oversees operations of the VPA. The Minister of National Defense oversees such agencies as the General Staff
and the General Logistics Department. However, military policy is
ultimately directed by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.
The VPA is composed of a main force and local forces. As with most
countries' armed forces, the VPA consists of standing, or regular,
forces as well as reserve forces. During peacetime, the standing forces
are minimized in number, and kept combat-ready by regular physical and weapons training, and stock maintenance.
The Vietnam People's Army is comprised of various units of the main forces (Chủ lực), local forces (Địa phương) and the People's Defence Forces (Dân quân-Tự vệ).
It is subdivided into the following branches and sub-branches:
- Lục quân (Ground Force)
- Biên phòng (Border Defence Force)
- Quân cơ động (Strategic Rear Force)
- Hải quân (Naval Force)
- (Naval Infantry or Marines)
- Hải phòng (Coast Guard)
- Phòng không-Không quân (Air Defence and Air Force).
As mentioned above, reserves exist in all branches and are organized in the same way as the standing forces, with the same chain of command, and with officers and non-commissioned officers.
The Foreign Relations Department of the Ministry of National Defense organizes international operations of the VPA.
Apart from its occupation of half of the disputed Spratly Islands,
which have been claimed as Vietnamese territory since the 17th century,
Vietnam has not had forces stationed internationally since its
withdrawal from Cambodia and Laos in early 1990.
The main force of the VPA consists of combat ready troops, as well
as educational institutions for logistics, officer training, and
Local forces are an entity of the VPA that, together with the militia
and "self-defense forces," act on the local level in protection of
people and local authorities. While the local forces are regular VPA
forces, the militia consists of rural civilians, and the self-defense
forces consist of civilians who live in urban areas and/or work in
large groups, such as at construction sites or farms.
The Vietnam People's Army consists of:
- Military manpower – military age: age for compulsory service: 18-27 years old; conscript service obligation – 2 years
- Military manpower – availability:
- males age 15-49: 21,341,813 (2005 est.)
- Military manpower – fit for military service:
- males age 15-49: 16,032,358 (2005 est.)
- Military manpower – reaching military age annually:
- males: 915,572 (2005 est.)
- Military manpower – total troops:
- 9,564,000 (2nd)
- Military expenditures: $1 billion (FY2002)
- Military expenditures – percent of GDP: 0.5% (FY2002)