Cam Ran Bay port facilities, with Soviet aircraft
Cam Ranh was a major US military installation during the Vietnam War. In addition to its two 10,000' runways, it had an excellent deep-water port and, due to its relatively secure location, was the site of large munitions and POL (Petroleum/Oil/Lubricants) storage site. During 1978-79 the formation of a Soviet-Vietnamese alliance led to the stationing of Soviet air and naval forces in Vietnam. Russian sailors were no strangers to Cam Ranh Bay, where czarist Russia's fleet took shelter just before its crushing defeat by the Japanese navy in 1905. The facility was used by Soviet, and later Russian forces for a variety of intellgience collection activities.
The Soviet military role in Vietnam increased during the 1980s as the Soviets provided arms to Vietnam; moreover, Soviet ships enjoyed access to the harbors at Danang and Cam Ranh Bay, and Soviet reconnaissance aircraft operated out of Vietnamese airfields. Russia has withdrawn combat troops stationed in the bay, with only a few auxiliary vessels remaining. In 1993 Russia and Vietnam signed a contract to ensure the continued use of SIGINT facilities in Cam Ranh Bay. Russia wanted to continue using the electronic eavesdropping base to monitor Chinese communications in the South China Sea. The facility at Cam Ranh is well placed to monitor communications around Hainan Island, which is the most likely staging post for any Chinese push into the Spratly archipelago, and is capable of intercepting international satellite traffic from satellites with footprints that include Vietnam.
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