12 September 2010

Myanmar Buys 50 Mi-24 and 12 Mi-2 from Russia

12 September 2010

Mil-Mi-24 helicopter (photo : Flightglobal)

Burma Buys 50 Combat Helicopters

The Burmese Air Force (BAF) has bought 50 Mi-24 helicopters and 12 Mi-2 armored transport helicopters from Russia, according to a source from the BAF.
The purchase of the M-24s marks the first time the BAF, known in Burmese as Tatmadaw-Lay, has procured combat-equipped helicopters. “50 Mi-24 fighter helicopters and a dozen Mi-2s were procured from Russia, and are now being assembled in Flying Training Base in Meikthila,” the source said. “After assembling the helicopters they will be divided among four squadrons at Magwe Air Base and Ela Air Base.”

Burma currently has 15 air bases. Ela Air Base, not far from Burma’s remote capital Naypyidaw, is the newest and is frequently used by Burma's senior military generals and government officials for domestic and international flights.

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 conduct air strikes against infantry battalions, most likely in Burma's ethnic areas where dozens of armed groups still exert control.

“The main reason for purchasing the Mi-24s is for counter-insurgency,” the source said.

In 1956, the BAF bought six Kawasaki Bell 47G helicopters from Japan, but did not upgrade its fleet until 1975 when the US provided 18 Bell 205A-1 helicopters as part of an anti-narcotics program.

Mil Mi-2 helicopter (photo : Airliners)

Since then, Burma has acquired some 70 helicopters, few of which are still in service. The BAF has traditionally separated its helicopter fleet among air bases at Hmawbi in Rangoon Division, Namsang in Southern Shan State, Taungoo in Pegu Division and Ground Training Air Base in Meikthila, which is in Mandalay Division.

One Mi-17 helicopter crashed in 2001, taking the lives of several senior military officials, including Burmese army Chief-of-Staff Lt-Gen Tin Oo.

An Mi-2 helicopter from Taungoo Air Base crashed in June near Pindaya Township, resulting in four deaths.

The BAF was founded in 1947 before Burma gained independence. Its principal raison d'ĂȘtre for many years was a campaign against the the Burmese Communist Party in the jungles of Burma's north and a decades-long war waged against several the country's ethnic armies, most notably the Karen National Union.

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