Burma procures Mi-24 combatant helicopters for counter-insurgencyBy Zin Linn Sep 10, 2010 4:22PM UTC
Latest reports from the Thai-Burma border state all junta personnel from every department in Shan State East’s Mongton and Monghsat townships where the United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s 171st Military Region is based, opposite Thailand’s Chiangmai, were informed by the regional commander to pack all their materials to be ready for evacuation from Sunday onward, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) says.
The message was passed in a circular letter from the Military Operations Command (MOC) 14 based in Monghsat on September 5. The letter was said to have come from Kengtung Headquarters, according to a civil servant from the education department in Mongton.
Since the junta’s latest deadline, September 1, military tensions between the Burma Army and ceasefire groups escalated in several areas on the Thai-Burma border and Sino-Burma border as ceasefire groups’ defiance was maintained. Currently, military troops have been in positions in areas facing the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’, UWSA and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) on the Sino-Burma border as well, Shan Herald said.
Again Burma Army’s security forces based close to the Shan State Army (SSA). North’s First Brigade is soaring after the newly promoted regional commander of the Northeastern Region Command, issued orders to tighten security and to secure all pathways to the SSA bases, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border. However, the reason for Burma Army’s reinforcement is not clear, Shan Herald said.
But according to Chinese security officials based along the border with Wa and NDAA, the military junta would not launch major operations in Panghsang and Mongla before the elections are over.
At the same time, Burma’s Air Force is reported to have purchased 50 Mi-24 fighter helicopters and a dozen Mi-2s from Russia, according to The Irrawaddy News Based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The purchase of the M-24 combat-helicopters are a first in the history of Burma’s Air Force. Fifty Mi-24 combat-helicopters will be utilized mainly for counter-insurgency, the air force source said.
The helicopter, also known as the Hind, is armored and is equipped with cannons, rockets and anti-tank missiles. The aircraft can also carry up to seven soldiers and their weapons.
The procurement of the Mi-24s comes a year after a request was made to Russia by BAF chief Lt-Gen Myat Hein in a bid to modernize Burma’s ailing air force and provide a weapon to launch air strikes against infantry battalions, presumably in Burma’s ethnic zones where dozens of armed groups still have overpower.
Fifty Russian-made Mi-24 combatant helicopters and a dozen Mi-2s are now being assembled in Flying Training Base in Meikthila. “The main reason for purchasing the Mi-24s is for counter-insurgency,” the source said.
The Burmese air force recently bought 50 K-8 jet trainer aircraft from China, according to The Irrawaddy quoting sources within the air force in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division in Middle Burma.
Two reasons to purchase K-8 trainers, sometimes called the K-8 Karakorum or the Hongdu JL-8, are for training exercises and counter-insurgency. The K-8 is fitted with air-to-air missiles and rockets.
In addition to purchasing Chinese-made fighters and trainer aircraft, Burma’s junta signed a contract in late 2009 procuring 20 MiG-29 jet fighters from Russia at a cost of around US $570 million.
In 2001, the SPDC acquired from Russia 12 MiG-29 fighters and two dual-seat trainers—reportedly at a cost of US $130 million, of which half was to be paid up front, and the balance remitted over the next 10 years.
After strengthening its military might, at an August 20 meeting, the Burmese junta instructed the ceasefire groups to submit their agreement to transforming into Border Guard Forces by the first week of September. The junta has announced that if ceasefire groups do not respond with an agreement or disagreement on the BGF program, they will automatically be recognized as outlaw groups.
However, most ceasefire groups said they will maintain four principles: not surrender; not transform into BGF unless their autonomy demands are met; not shoot first; be ready to protect themselves. Tensions along the Burma’s border with ceasefire groups are on edge these days despite the junta’s priority to hold the general elections before the year’s end and China’s request to maintain regional stability.