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Army Battalions

Infantry Battalion The Army uses the battalion as the basic maneuver formation, but is most competent conducting operations at the company level. The battalions, like the British system are grouped into regiments for morale and administrative purposes. These included the Burma Regiment having some 90 battalions, the Light Infantry Regiment having about 10 battalions, plus the Burma Rifles, the Kachin Rifles, the Chin Rifles, the Shan Rifles, and the Kayah Rifles, all having between one and six battalions. Despite their names, regiments were ethnically integrated as of early 1983.

Operationally, in 1983 the army was organized into six light infantry divisions of 10 battalions each, two armored battalions, some 85 independent infantry battalions, four artillery battalions, one combination antitank and artillery battalion, and one antiaircraft battery.

A battalion is organized into four rifle companies of three platoons, plus a support company with Mortar, MMG, and RCL platoons, and an administrative company. The battalion establishment is 27 officers and 723 ORs, but the normal strength is less. The Light Infantry Battalions have much lower establishment strength of around 500. One source notes that this may lead to these units being mistakenly identified by the observers and reporters as under strength infantry battalions.

The number and actual strength of these battalions is unclear. Orbat.com reports a total of 540 battalions [335 Light Infantry Battalions and 205 Infantry Battalions], and IISS reports 437 battalions [100 infantry battalions and another 337 regional command battations], while wiki reports a total of 337 infantry battalions, including 266 light infantry battalions [thus 71 mechanized battalions].

According to wiki, the Myanmar Army had some 370,000 active troops in the year 2000 [implying a typical battalion strength of 110 soldiers], while IISS reports a strength of 375,000 as of 2011 [implying a typical battalion strength of 86 soldiers]. As of 2009 orbat.com reports a total authorized strength of 450,000 with only 250,000 actually on hand. While orbat.com reports that "Generally battalions are 200 strong as against an authorized TO of about 750 (TO = 500 for Light Infantry Battalions), but often are no more than company size of even just a couple of platoons" their 540 reported battalions would be a mere 46 soldiers apiece averaged over their "on hand" headcount.

According to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, as of 2007 the military junta stationed 273 battalions, with over 150,000 soldiers [which was said to be 30% of its total nominal personnel strength], in Eastern Burma alone, which is the home of Karen, Shan, Karenni, Mon and other ethnic groups, suggesting a battalion strength of about 550 troops.

All of these calculations assume that the entire strength of the Army is assigned to field maneuver units, which is of course improbable. While the tooth-to-tail ratio of Myanmar's military is unknown, the United States Army is about half tooth and half tail, requiring about one soldier in non-deploying support units for every soldier deploying in a tactical maneuver unit. Possibly the tooth-to-tail ratio is Myanmar is about the same, reflecting the paucity of resources that could be reliably obtained from external sources. Possibly the tooth-to-tail ratio in Myanmar is much more favorable to the tooth side of the equation, reflecting the logistical resources that can be extracted from the local civilian population through forced requisition, known to be a common practice in Myanmar, and certainly a common practice in pre-modern armies around the world.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:33 ZULU