Junta Buys 230 Military Aircraft in 21 Years
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Junta Buys 230 Military Aircraft in 21 Years

By WAI MOE Saturday, December 26, 2009


With its recent purchase of 20 MiG-29 fighter jets, Burma's military junta has acquired a total of 230 military aircraft since seizing power in a bloody coup in 1988—nearly 100 more than the regime of former dictator Ne Win.

In his book “Building the Tatmadaw,” Burmese military expert Maung Aung Myoe writes that the junta procured 210 aircraft for the Tatamdaw-Lay [air force] between 1988 and 2006, supplied by China, Poland, Russia and the former Yugoslavia.

A Russian-made MiG-29 jet fighter takes off from Mingaladon Air Force Base in Rangoon in 2008. (Photo: Andy Davey)
By comparison, from 1962 to 1988—the 26-year period that Burma was ruled by Ne Win's Burmese Social Programme Party—the air force acquired 131 military aircraft.

With the 20 MiG-29s it recently bought from Russia for US $570 million, Burma appears to be continuing its ongoing efforts to close the gap with its much better-equipped neighbors.

In 2001, the regime purchased 12 MiG-29s after a border clash with Thailand in which the Thai military forced Burmese troops from border strongholds using US-made F-16 fighter jets.

Thailand's air force currently has an estimated 315 aircraft, including 184 combat aircraft. It has also ordered more advanced 12 JAS 39 Gripen aircraft from Sweden.

Another Southeast Asian nation, Vietnam, recently signed a billion-dollar deal with Russia for the purchase of Sukhoi Su-30MK2s and a submarine.

Bangladesh, a neighbor that has tension with Burma over a territorial dispute in the Bay of Bengal, is estimated to have more than 200 military aircraft, including MiG-29 SEs.  

Burma's latest batch of MiG-29s from Russia were purchased after the regime rejected an offer of a special price on J-10 fighter jets from its close ally, China.

Lt-Gen Myat Hein, commander in chief of Burma's air force, (left) meets Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on November 6, 2009. (Photo: Getty Images)
According to Burmese military sources, the commander in chief of Burma’s air force, Lt-Gen Myat Hein, traveled to China in November to discuss upgrades of Chinese-made military aircraft already owned by Burma and to look into the possibility of making future purchases.

However, the junta finally decided to buy the Russian planes, despite concerns about their reliability after frequent reports of MiG-29s being grounded in Russia and other countries.

A fourth-generation military aircraft, the MiG-29 was first produced in the Soviet Union in 1983.

The cost of the jets was also no deterrent, despite the fact that Burma remains one of the world's poorest countries. Around a third of the country's population live under the international poverty line, earning less than a dollar a day, according to UN figures.

But even with its ruling generals sparing no expense in their pursuit of a more powerful air force, Burma is likely to remain behind its neighbors.

“Compared with the air forces of neighboring countries, particularly Thailand’s, the Tatmadaw-Lay’s air power is relatively low,” wrote Maung Aung Myoe in his book. 

“Although it has acquired advanced aircraft such as the MiG-29, it has problems with operational capability, in addition to lacking qualified pilots.”

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Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
As for the MiGs, we don't see much strategic or tactical advantage. As Okkar said, they could be used against drug smugglers and human traffickers. But couldn't cheaper and smaller fighter aircraft do the job?

Moe Aung Wrote:
Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF,

Jeez, thanks for the "lecturing and showing off your knowledge." Told you already, I'm not worthy, Your Excellency. Off with Nga Moe Aung's head?

Aung Wrote:
Malysia's RMAF has decided to phase our the existing fleet of MIGs due to high maintainance cost.

Except for India, most airforces of the world cannot afford to keep MIGs flying due to various reasons. Tatmadaw Generals seem to have greater interest in the numbers than in the quality of aircraft.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Of course it was daylight robbery by Shu Maung -- in the name of socialism. Everyone knew that! Now who is confused?

Hitler is admired by many even today; a little knowledge is dangerous. Hitler was a genius in more than one sense. But he was fallible. He dealt with the harsh consequences of the Treaty of Versailles. Only with military organization could such monumental tasks be undertaken. His major mistake was persecution of the Jews and sundry others from over 26 nationalities including Serbs and gypsies. It is not a good idea for you to keep lecturing and showing off your knowledge about Dickens. There are many educated but quiet Burmese. Hitler's other mistake was in taking on Russia. He did not learn from Napoleon.

Moe Aung Wrote:
Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF,

Typical confusion between state capitalism and socialism/communism. Nationalizing everything that moves by a military dictator is not socialism. It was daylight robbery in the name of "socialism" by Ne Win.

Perhaps you need reminding that Hitler founded the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany (Nazi in short) whilst never representing the workers, but nationalism, militarism and state corporatist capitalism.

What you see is not necessarily what you get. And there are those who may never manage to do more than scratch the surface. The sign over the door of the party office is just a self-proclaimed image like the State "Peace" and "Development" Council.

Where was His Maj hiding when the batons were raining down and the bullets flying? What did he do when ASSK gave the leadership that people clamored for? What was keeping him from defending our selfless, courageous and venerated Sangha? Did he think Than Shwe was doing a good job cleansing the Sasana?

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Okkar, Our assertion: 20MiG-29s are not strategically significant in terms of defending Burma against super powers. If they are used for the purposes you mention, that's fine. All national expenditures are a matter of priority; a vey complex issue.
Our King, HM King Schwebomin II, knows that. We do need in the fullness of time independent management of the Treasury, perhaps under supervision of the Privy Council; of course, Parliament needs to debate but the Privy Council must revise, amend or reject in the national interest; experts will be there alongside defence chief. Logical? Hope so. Our country is like a wounded tiger that is bleeding. Snipers, traitors and conceited armchair political theorists have nothing to contribute; and Mrs. Michael Aris aka DaungDanBuuByi should give up her struggle for power; we have known from day one her steely ambition and desire to revenge her brother. All will come out in due course. Our beloved Bogyoke Aung San must be turning in the grave.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
"Another in-bred royal coming out of the woodwork and talking through their hat? Communism in Burma?! When did that happen?" Has Moe Aung ever heard of Burmese Communist Party? It went undergound. But wonderful Fargaung ShuMaung dressed up communism as socialism and nationalised everything including ruby mines, even corner shops; demonetisation was 1000times worse than the credit crunch (Our King, HM King Shwebomin II explained;all royal predictions came true, sadly) but the future looks good despite all the ills.
In-bred? HM King Shwebomin II is true blood royal, not from Mindon's line but from Bagunmin (mistakenly spelt Paganmin), going back a long long line of Burmese monarchy.

Moe Aung Wrote:
Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF,

Can't we have snippets before His Maj's autobiography comes out? And why only a global diplomat? Why not a Chakravartin king of the universe replete with the swastika?

DaungDanBuuByi? Very funny. I reckon you still play with bows and arrows, but no guns, no cowboy costume for you.


Why stop at MiGs? We surely must get hold of some nukes, so nobody can meddle with our own internal affairs of customary human rights violations, repression, exploitation and violence.

okkar Wrote:
Anyone who had served in Western Air Forces knows the value of MiG, especially those who come up against them. Despite the cheap price tag, MiG-29s are still formidable multi-role strike fighters that can be used for ground attack strike missions as well as interceptor/air superiority fighters. What SPDC spending on defense modernization programs are nothing compared to some of its neighbors. Nevertheless, an additional 20 MiG-29 added to the existing 12 can only help in eliminating drug smuggling, human trafficking border dwellers!

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
I refer to the post from M-P 4 UMPF.

"Yes, we might need a king like Shwebomin II....
However, after the job (removing Than Shwe & Suu Kyi) is done.. This king must be drawn & quartered."

WEll, THERE IS SOME PROGESS IN UNDERSTANDING OUR POLITICAL REALITIES. But,maungpaing, why only drawn & quartered? Not hung? You wouldn't, would you? Do you know the origin of the expression'hung,drawn & quartered'? We are Buddhists you know. KYAW is right about what happened to Thibaw; there is more to it, though; Thibaw would have been deposed by Limbin Shan sawbwas.You must wait till our King's autobiography comes out. HM King Shwebomin II should be global diplomat for Myanmar Kingdom. You see English remnant colonialists and neo-colonialists do not want Burma to be a dignified Kingdom with freedom, democracy and human right; they just want traitor woman Mrs. Michael Aris aks DaungDanBuuByi to have power as a puppet. Imagine!

United Myanmar Patriot Front
[email protected]

Moe Aung Wrote:

It's about MIGs. See the picture?

Another in-bred royal coming out of the woodwork and talking through their hat? Communism in Burma?! When did that happen?

kYAW Wrote:
Surely, you are absolutely right:colonizers British sent away our King Thibaw to die in India. My grandpa HRH U Hla Tin,a royal himself, paid homage to HM the King in Yadanagiri,India. His Majesty kindly rewarded him with a beige silk pa-soe(sarong for Bamar men.

Burma needs a queen or king, or politically serving commission or Governor to help unite the fractional conflicts of Burma and heal the political divide; I can recommend NLD Leaders like Daw Suu to bring dignity back to Myanmar globally in the Royal Heritage of Burma just like the royal heritages of Thailand, Japan, India, Denmark, Sweden or alas,oh-so-royal England.

I can't stand the atrocities of communism coming into Burma like the Mongols, who invaded and destroyed everything in the Buddhist Pagan Dynasty.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
20 MiG 29SEs were mere defence cosmetic, not of strategic consequence. Which country poses a real threat to Burma? Certainly not Bangladesh as we can deal with it; but Bangladesh will have garnered support from, you know who.

Diplomacy is key issue. 20 jets are neither here nor there, but we can tolerate that, not such big issue; however, money could have been better spent on health and education.

maungpaing Wrote:
I refer to the post from M-P 4 UMPF.

Yes, we might need a king like Shwebomin II....

However, after the job (removing Than Shwe & Suu Kyi) is done.. This king must be drawn & quartered.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
When was Burma involved in an aerial dog fight? Never! But defending the state - sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, security - is primary duty of government.

However, Burmese leadership needs to sort out many political and political aspects. To do so requires proper use of the language. 'Tatmataw', pronounced 'Tatmadaw' translates as MainRoyalForce - MRF. Tatmataw- Lay translates ad RoyalMainForce-Air;so far so good. But including the word 'taw' has implications.

If these are "royal" where is the king? Surely not ThanShwe, who is a 'Regent' for an heir to the Konbaung Dynasty like Shwebomin II.

The Tatmataw's 3 branches: Royal Myanmar Army, Royal Myanmar Navy, Royal Myanmar Air Force, shold all be loyally serving a reinstated king, not ThanShwe.

plan B Wrote:
Ko Wai Moe

How much is that translated to /y in $ &¢?
Now how much does the unjustified Sanction by the west cost?

Will you care to even speculate?

Given the well known year 2005 of 205 millions figure, the known lowest amount b/t Myanmar and CHINA.

Given The well know 50% discount due to sanction Myanmar has to give to trade with CHina, in 2005 alone Myanmar lost 205 million due to sanctions.

Ko Wai Moe, can you honestly tell us that in the year 2005, the SPDC spent that much in aircraft purchase?

SPDC is responsible for the plight of Myanmar. However the west is as also responsible for creating the present SPDC.
Until the extent of this responsibility is recognized, his Bash-A-Junta will do the citizenry no favors.

Kyaik-ka-san Wrote:
Normally, Burmese Air Force staff are more competent than Navy or Army personnel in terms of education level. However, it is not so in the case of buying the MiG 29. They are rotten-fish in the same boat.

Recent political environment may explain about it. Last August, the regime attacked Kokang, without advance notice to the Chinese (to appease US?).

Rejecting the cheaper J-10 or FC-1 fighter jet is another way of keeping some distance from China. It also reflects the regime’s playing a long-awaited US and/or Russia card against China, its major partner in commerce.

Is the MiG 29 really good stuff? In 2007, Algeria terminated a similar contract. Sri Lanka bought six and Lebanon got ten free of charge from Russia. Malaysia is trying hard to sell its MIGs to African country. The Maintenance fee for one jet is US$ 5 mil/year, let alone being grounded frequently. If you know what percentage of US$ 600 will go military pockets, then you know why they chose the MiG, a prior commitment to Russians.

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