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Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


By Sakhal

In contrast with the costly arsenal (a thousand millions of dollars) deployed by American and South Vietnamese troops, who had the most sophisticated means in the world, the Communist armies of North Vietnam - People's Army of Vietnam and Viet Cong - employed a motley collection of weapons.

Assault rifle Type 56

A sole sniper provided with this rifle could held a well placed position against an entire company due to its effectiveness. This rifle is a Chinese copy of the Soviet models AK-47 and AKM. The rifle Type 56-1 was a copy of the AKS-47 and was provided with folding steel buttstock. Circa 1968 most of the most powerful units of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong were equipped with it. Both the Type 56 and Type 56-1 were of the caliber 7.62 x 39 millimeters and their curved magazine could contain up to 30 rounds.

M-46 field gun

This artillery piece had a caliber of 130 millimeters and fired 33.4-kilogram shells to a distance of 31 kilometers. The M-46 was normally used by the North Vietnamese Army against the American fire support bases. It considerably surpassed the American 105-millimeter howitzer M-102 and allowed its gunners to act with almost total impunity.

RPG-7 portable rocket-launcher

This rocket-launcher of Soviet origin replaced the RPG-2 in service with the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. Compact, light and of great power, this one was for them an ideal weapon. The grenade of the RPG-7 was fired by percussion, but when it had flown ten meters the engine of the rocket was ignited, propelling the grenade about 500 meters afar. The explosive head could drill a 320-millimeter armor plate at normal range - 50 to 100 meters -. Aiming was quite precise with calm air, but less fiable with a certain degree of wind.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


M16 rifles captured from the Americans

Despite the frequent supplies coming from the countries of the Communist Bloc and their own albeit limited production, the North Vietnamese Army same as the Viet Cong were always somewhat scarce of weapons. In the illustration, two women from the Viet Cong gather the M16 rifles abandoned in the field after an encounter with the enemy.

Main battle tank T-55

The North Vietnamese forces used this Soviet tank - operated by a crew of four - for the first time in the attack to An Loc in 1972. This tank weighing 35.9 tonnes mounted a D-10T 100 millimeters cannon and two PKT 7.62-millimeter machine guns. It had an operational range of 500 kilometers and a maximum speed of 48 kilometers/hour. Armor thickness ranged from 20 to 203 millimeters. Initially, the North Vietnamese were inept in the handling of the T-55, but soon they learnt from their own mistakes.

Submachine gun K-50M

This 7.62 millimeters submachine gun of Chinese origin was a copy of the PPSh-41. Many of them were delivered from origin to the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, but this latter produced its own version, the K-50M, in their workshops in the jungle. The solid buttstock of the original model was replaced - in the French style - by a metallic slide acting as buttstock and a pistol grip was added; the cover of the barrel was shortened and the muzzle brake removed. This weapon weighed 4.09 kilograms and had a curved magazine with up to 35 rounds.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


Amphibious tank PT-76

In 1967, the Soviet Union supplied North Vietnam with these amphibious tanks operated by a crew of three, which made apparition for the first time during the Tet Offensive, when they were used to seize the American special forces camp in Lang Vei, near Khe Sanh, the 7th February 1968. This tank weighing 13.78 tonnes mounted a D-56T 76-millimeter cannon and one SGMT 7.62-millimeter machine gun. It had an operational range of 250 kilometers at a maximum speed of 44 kilometers/hour on land, and 100 kilometers at a maximum speed of 10 kilometers/hour on water. Armor thickness ranged from 11 to 14 millimeters.

Recoilless cannon Type 52

Recoilless cannons were popular among the members of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong because they were at the same time powerful and lightweight. The 75 millimeters recoilless cannon Type 52 was of Chinese origin but copied from the dated American cannon M20 whose prestations - effective range of 6675 meters with high explosive shell and 8000 meters with armor piercing shell - were more appropriate to the necessities of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong.

Submachine gun MAT-49

The Communists captured from the French many of these submachine guns in caliber 9 x 19 millimeters. They were adapted to the Soviet pistol cartridge 7.62 x 25 millimeters by mounting in them a barrel 7.67 centimeters longer.

81-millimeter mortar

This mortar caliber 81 millimeters manufactured in North Vietnam was a copy of the American mortar M1 of the same caliber. These mortars were popular weapons in the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong due to their easiness to be dismounted and carried by a group of three men.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


The Vietnam War constituted a testing bench of the modern defense systems perfectionated after the end of the Second World War. The massive employment of guided missiles against combat aircraft allowed to test on the field the effectiveness of the new methods against the enemy air raids.

Anti-aircraft optical viewfinder

The illustration shows an elementary optical system that was attached to the machine guns supplied by China and captured to the Viet Cong in the province of Long An, in South Vietnam, in November 1963. Surprisingly for the experts, the fire from small arms and machine guns resulted so effective against the American aircraft, that in the late 1964 the pilots that attacked targets in North Vietnam abandoned the tactics at low altitude and high speed substituting them by dive bombings from 4000 to 6000 meters high.

M 38/39 twin anti-aircraft cannon

This weapon of Soviet origin appears mounted on a four-wheel carriage. Usable only for visual shooting, it had a caliber of 37 millimeters and fired 725-gram shells at an effective range of 1500 meters, with a rate of fire of 180 rounds per minute. Elevation angle goes from -5 to + 85 degrees.

Heavy machine gun Type 24

The first line of defense of the North Vietnamese forces was constituted by the weapons of the infantrymen, of which the heavy machine guns were the most effective ones. In the illustration is depicted the model Type 24 of Chinese manufacture, which was a copy of the German 08 Maxim from the First World War. Its caliber is 7.92 millimeters and it is cooled by water - preferably in circulation by a pump - inside the voluminous casing around the barrel. Total length: 1398 millimeters; barrel length: 610 millimeters; weight: 17.7 kilograms; rifled: four dextro-rotatory grooves; operating principle: recoil; ammunition: 250-round belt; theoretical rate of fire: 400 rounds per minute; muzzle speed: 885 meters per second.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


Anti-aircraft missile SA-2 Guideline

This surface-to-air mid-range Soviet missile was shown in public for the first time in 1957 and since then it was widely used. It was the most profusely used missile in the Vietnam War, specially in North Vietnam. It was transported by a ZIL-157 all-terrain truck and launched from a rotatory launcher, as seen in the illustration. These missiles were launched either one by one or by salvos. In the first launching a sole missile was fired to force the enemy pilot to perform an evasive maneuver and in that moment a salvo was fired to shoot him down. The elevator or booster fitted with four fins was ignited during four or five seconds. Two of the fins had gyroscopic rudders for the initial moments of the flight. The engine continued its combustion during 22 seconds fed by nitric acid and a liquid hydrocarbon - probably kerosen -. This radio-guided missil had cruciform delta-shaped wings and fins that served as rudder. Propulsion system: solid-fuel elevator and liquid-fuel sustainer; warhead: 130 kilograms of high explosive; total length: 10.7 meters; range: 40-50 kilometers; ceiling: 18000 meters.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


The first emplacements of SA-2 missiles appeared in North Vietnam in July 1965 and their number grew fast until 1972, when about 300 emplacements were registered to exist in the country and even south of the demilitarized area. The American air force counteracted the situation by destroying missile batteries, by performing violent evasive maneuvers, by avoiding closed formations, by diversifying tactics and by using electronic countermeasures (ECM). In a typical SA-2 emplacement we would find several missiles ready in their launchers (A), about 50 meters afar from their command post (B). Roads connecting the missiles allowed access for the required tasks and reload vehicles (C). Carpets made from bamboo (D) covered and protected the electrical cables while reinforcing the pavement in the event of bad weather. The radar Spoon Rest A (E) was in charge of giving the alert of incoming enemy aircraft. The guide of the missiles was entrusted to the radar Fan Song (F), which localized the target and passed the data to a computer. The commands from the computer were transmitted to the missile by an UHF link that directed the missile towards the target.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


ZIL-151 truck

The Soviet 2500-kilogram 6 x 6 truck ZIL-151, in its version of storage vehicle, was used as maintenance vehicle in the SA-2 emplacements.

ZIL-150 truck

The illustration depicts the basic version of the 3500-kilogram 4 x 2 truck ZIL-150 fitted with a towing, used to transport the SA-2 missiles to their launchers along North Vietnam.

Weapons of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army


Categories: Infantry - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-12-13


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