UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Myanmar - Navy

Myanmar NavyThe Myanmar Navy ranked the last in the army-dominated Tatmadaw (Myanmar Defence Services). Apart from policing the coastline against encroachments by foreign fishermen, it was largely relegated to riverine support to Army and Air Force in the country’s fight with ethnic insurgents. But in the November 2008 standoff with the Bangladesh Navy the Myanmar Navy was said to have made a poor showing. The Myanmar Navy was unable to hold its own in asserting national claims to the overlapping zone due to the availability of merely small craft as compared to the larger warships of the Bangladesh Navy. Then the regime started to recognize the deficiencies in its naval capabilities.

The Burma Navy is divided into the Major War Vessels Command, controlled directly from the War Office in Rangoon, and five (possibly six) regional commands. The latter assets are usually placed under the operational control of the appropriate regional commanders. Air force assets are assigned to the navy as required. There is no separate naval air arm or coast guard. The Myanmar ship prefix is UMS for Union of Myanmar Ship.

Functioning primarily as a fisheries protection and coastal and riverine patrol fleet in the early 1980s, the navy has also been a victim of tight budget constraints. Major craft comprised one ex-British frigate of World War II vintage and four corvettes-two of which were ex-United States craft commissioned in the 1940s and two, products of the nation's own boatyards in 1960. Light forces included some 41 river and coastal patrol craft and approximately 36 gunboats, ranging in displacement from 49 to 381 tons. The navy operated an additional 12 coastal patrol craft for the People's Pearl and Fishery Corporation for use against piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing.

The navy's strength was some 7,000 as of early 1983. By 2007 the Myanmar Navy had 16,000 men and women, and operated more than 122 vessels. The main naval dockyard was located at Rangoon, where facilities could handle most ship repair and where virtually all naval supplies were stored and issued. The Naval Training Center was at Syriam near Rangoon. The fleet was assigned on a regional basis out of commands at Sittwe, Bassein, Rangoon, and Moulmein.

Myanmar NavyBefore the creation of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in 1988, the Burma Navy was small, ill-equipped and crippled by its dependence on foreign logistics. As a consequence, it was confined to patrolling Burma's inland waterways and coastal fringes. Also, the navy held only a token position in the military regime which, under various guises, had run the country since the 1962 coup. Yet the navy has always been, and remained, an important factor in Burma's internal security. This view appears to be shared by the new generation of military leaders.

While it possessed four old corvettes, the Burma Navy before 1988 consisted mainly of relatively obsolete, thinly armored, and lightly armed motor boats. These were used to patrol Burma's inland and coastal waters, primarily to support army counter-insurgency operations, provide fisheries protection, and combat smuggling. The Burma Navy had no blue-water capability, no real capacity to defend itself against submarines or major surface vessels, and no defense against attack from the air.

In 2008-2009, Bangladesh, Burma, and India were involved in maritime boundary disputes over their respective sovereignty in the Bay of Bengal. In October, Bangladesh claimed its maritime boundary before the United Nations courts, under the arbitration of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982. The dispute among the three countries limits further exploration of resources in the disputed area. At the end of 2008, the situation intensified when Daewoo International Corp. of the Republic of Korea, which had a gas sale and purchase agreement with Burma, started oil and gas exploration in the disputed maritime zone, and Bangladesh and Burma each stationed naval warships and troops along their coastal borders. On 15 March 2012 the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea found in favor of Bangladesh.

Myanmar - Navy - Modernization

Myanmar NavyBefore 1988 the Navy was barely able to support the army in its counter-insurgency role and was primarily patrolling the inshore waters against smugglers and poachers. The Navy had only a few obsolete corvettes, some small patrol boats and support ships. Acquisitions included three PB90-class (Yugoslavia) inshore patrol boats, 10 Hainan-class coastal patrol boats and at least two guided missile patrol boats from China. Reports indicate that China may sell three guided missile frigates and a small number of minesweepers. Burma's own shipyards may have produced several fast-attack patrol boats.

Since 1988 the SLORC has undertaken a major naval modernization program, including the purchase of more than 20 patrol boats (mainly form China) and the construction of a number of fast attack craft in Burma. The Chinese vessels provided Burma with its first anti-submarine and air defense potential. The navy has also added a tanker and a number of supply ships to its fleet.

The navy experienced dramatic growth under the SLORC, with the fleet almost doubling between 1988 and 1998. China agreed to support an ambitious military expansion and modernisation program launched by the SLORC in 1989. By 1992, China had delivered six Hainan class offshore patrol boats. The regime's navy eventually received from China 16 Hainan-class patrol boats [other sources report only 10] and an undisclosed number of small gunboats. In the 1990s, the regime acquired from China six Houxin guided missile patrol boats. Each vessel is armed with four C-801 anti-ship cruise missiles. The regime seemed to envisage a greatly expanded external defence role for this arm of the armed forces. Since 1988 the fleet has almost doubled, with the addition of aa many as 20 new warships from China. With Chinese help, Burma has also built fast patrol craft and two corvettes.

Burma could have a blue water capability for the first time in its history, providing the SLORC's ambitious naval modernization program is successful. In the 1990s, the regime planned to purchase Chinese frigates to help curtail incursions in Burmese waters by fishing vessels from neighboring countries, but at the time the regime could not afford to buy them even at "friendship prices." The junta is also acquiring technical know-how on the construction and repair of the Burmese fleet's warships, and some unconfirmed reports suggest that North Korea has proposed to sell Burma a small submarine.

Myanmar Navy started a modernization program in 2001 to replace older ships with more modern and capable equipment. By 2005 the Burma Navy had significantly upgraded and its scope of operations has expanded to include its new Chinese patrol boats reportedly carry anti-ship missiles in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. The Navy does have a riverine capability. Ships from 13 navies across the Asia-Pacific region took part in anti-piracy and counter-terrorism exercises in the Indian Ocean. Burma has taken part in the exercises since 2003. The annual multi-national exercise, named "Exercise Milan," took place from Feb. 4-8, 2010. Burma's navy worked alongside a patrol boat from the Australian navy during a four-day naval war game exercise hosted by India.

In early 2011, two corvettes, 771 and 772, were upgraded to Light Frigates by installing C 802 SSM, SAMs, sonar, RBU 1200 ASW rockets and new surface and air search radars. Twenty 45-meter class FACs(Guns and Missiles) were already backbone of Myanmar navy but Myanmar Navy experienced these ships are too small for new weapons and electronic systems. This was the main reason for initiating of 49 meter class FAC(Stealth). Older Hainan class FAC (Submarine Chaser) will be degraded to Category B reserve by 2016.

China handed over two Type 053H1 frigates to Myanmar Navy in 2012. The ships obtained hull numbers F21 and F23. Type 053H1 frigates Jianghu-2 (modernized version of Type 053H1 Jianghu-1, retrofitted Soviet Project 50 escort ship) were built in China in 1981-88 by Hudong Shipyard (Shanghai). In total, ten such ships were built for Chinese Navy, one of them was sold to Bangladesh in 1989 and obtained the name of F18 Osman. In 1984-85, two Type 053H1 frigates were built for Egyptian Navy (951 Najim Al-Zafir and 956 El Nasser). The pair of Type 053H1 class frigates for Myanmar were upgraded extensively by Myanmar Navy, including replacement of the HY 2 anti-ship missiles by more lethal C 802 missiles, and installing new sensors.

Myanmar Navy intended to establish a submarine fleet by 2015. Some Myanmar naval officers are undergoing submarine training in Pakistan. Although Pakistan is willing to sell its aging Agosta 70 submarines, Myanmar Navy shows very little interest in these submarines and instead, seeking to buy more modern ones. Myanmar Navy was negotiating to buy 2 Kilo class submarines from Russia. In June 2013, during his visit to Russia, Myanmar Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Russian officials discussed buying Kilo submarines and Kamov ASW helicopters for the new frigates.

India delivered INS Sindhuvir to Myanmar in October 2020 for the latter to train sailers, but this has been hyped by some Indian and Western media as a move to counter China's growing influence in Southeast Asia, which Chinese experts said is an over-interpretation and provocation meant to disrupt China's relationship with countries in the region. The submarine, renamed UMS Minye Theinkhathu after a historical hero in Myanmar, appeared in a naval exercise conducted by the Myanmar navy in mid-October. It can operate up to 300 meters deep. It will be the first in a fleet that Myanmar wishes to build, and is likely to be used initially for training and orientation purposes for its Navy personnel.

The Myanmar Navy named the Indian ship UMS Minye Theinkhathu after its national hero. It is the first submarine in the Myanmar Navy's arsenal. The former Soviet-era submarine was in operation in the Indian Navy since 1988.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 01-08-2021 15:39:58 ZULU