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Myanmar - Air Force Modernization

Myanmar Air Force Since 1988 the SLORC has acquired F-7 and A-5 aircraft from China for air defense and ground attack, G-4 counter-insurgency aircraft from Yugoslavia, and F-6 trainers and Y-8 transports also from China. Some of the helicopters purchased from Poland and Russia serve as gunships and provide improved tactical airlift capabilities. There are reports that the SLORC is also interested in purchasing 10 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, to give it an air-interceptor capability. There are also reports that the air force is seeking to upgrade its maritime surveillance capabilities.

Like its sister services, the Air Force benefited from the 1988 expansion. Previous aircraft were limited to old transport and training aircraft modified locally for ground attack. There were some helicopters donated by the US for a counter-narcotics program. All aircraft had suffered from lack of adequate maintenance and parts. Only a small portion of these aircraft were airworthy.

The post-1988 acquisition program purchases of tactical aircraft were estimated to include three squadrons of F-7 fighters, two squadrons of A5 fighter/attack aircraft, and several FT-7 and F-6 trainers from China. Myanmar was rearmed with Chinese military equipment worth some $2 billion in the 1990s. China agreed to support an ambitious military expansion and modernisation program launched by the SLORC in 1989.

By 1992, China had delivered at least one squadron of F-7 "Airguard" fighters. The regime purchased from Beijing 48 NAMC A-5C fighters, 14 Karakoum-8 jet assault and trainer planes, and a variety of other transportation and training aircraft. In 2000, the SPDC acquired 52 Chengdu F-7M Airguard fighters. Pilots have reportedly complained about the performance and reliability of the Chinese-made jets.

Four Yugoslavian G-4 counter-insurgency aircraft were also purchased. The former Yugoslavia supplied the military regime with 12 SOKO G-4 Super Gale ground assault aircraft and provided training for the regime's air force personnel. Several Russian MiG-29 interceptors may have been ordered.

The purchase of tactical transport aircraft is thought to have included two to three squadrons of Polish Mi-2 and Sokol W-3 medium helicopters, and approximately two squadrons of Mi-17 utility helicopters from Russia. There has been interest expressed in purchasing some attack helicopters from Russia and China. Burma has acquired four Y-8 medium lift transports from China. Aircraft facilities are also being upgraded significantly.

In late December 2009 a 400 million-euro ($570 mln) contract was signed for the delivery of Russian MiG-29 fighters for the Myanmar Air Force. The Russian bid to supply MiG-29 Fulcrum-D carrier-based fighter jets beat China's offer to sell its latest J-10 and FC-1 fighters. The country bought 12 MiG-29 fighters in 2001, but this contract is the largest since the 2007 unfulfilled contract to supply Algeria with 34 MiG-29 fighters.

According to a Burma Times report on 15 June 2014 ["Myanmar plans JF-17 production"], Myanmar is looking to obtain a license to produce the FC-1 domestically. The Government of Myanmar was said to be planning to acquire technologies from China and Pakistan to build JF-17 multirole combat aircraft at its own aircraft factory to boost its Air Force.

If JF-17 production was carried out in Myanmar it may induce an arms race with neighboring countries who would in turn acquire greater air combat capabilities of their own. The Royal Thai Air Force already operated 12 Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen’s while the Bangladesh Air Force was planning to acquire combat aircraft from China and Russia.

Introduction of JF-17 would mean that Myanmar Air Force will be investing in such areas as spare parts and trained manpower to mitigate its short comings. Author Tony David from Jane’s noted that “In both new fixed-wing and rotary-wing capabilities, regional analysts note that a lack of pilot experience and weaknesses in maintenance and ground-to-air links still limit the operational effectiveness of the [Myanmar Air Force],”

Myanmar received six Yak-130 combat training planes under a contract from 2015, an additional batch is scheduled to be delivered in 2018. Defense Minister Mikhail Petukhov, deputy director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), told TASS on 8 November 2017 at the Defense & Security 2017 that he heads the Russian delegation at the exhibition. "At present, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Soyuz Myanmar consist of six units of Yak-130 combat training aircraft, and it is planned to implement an additional party under the contract from 2015 in 2018," the FSVTS said. The contract for the supply of Myanmar aircraft Yak-130 was signed in 2015. The first three aircraft were delivered in 2016, the second three - in 2017.

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Page last modified: 08-11-2017 17:49:51 ZULU