Armed Forces Overviews
Myanmar Defence Force

Myanmar Defence Force

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By: Hans van Herk and Erwin van Dijkman



Photo: Peter Heeneman


Photo: Peter Heeneman

History

Most people know Myanmar by its previous name, Burma. On 16 January 1947 the air force was therefore founded as Burmese Air Force. Being under British rule meant that the first types operated were of british descendance. Austers, Tiger Moths. Subsequently, after the Burmese Independence of 4 January 1948, Sptifires, Vampires and Chipmunks followed. Also helicopters and aircraft from the United States were obtained, like the T-33 and Kaman HH-43 Huskie.

After a coup d'Etat in 1962, Burma became a socialist state and turned to Russia for its aerial hardware. Another such coup in 1988 brought about military rule and a change of the country's name to Myanmar. The Tatmadaw (armed forces) became an instrument, not only for defence but also for keeping internal unrest at bay. Ever distancing itself from the West and suffering boycots, nonetheless it managed to source aircraft from various befriended countries. Yugoslav Galeb jet trainers, Chinese A-5 attack planes and F-7 fighters, and Russian MiG-29s and Mi-35s for example.

Current status

Still leaning heavily on Chinese hardware, like the Y-8, Yak-130 and sino-pak K-8, the country has taken a swing again and is doing its best to work  like a democracy since 2006. This gradually opened up opportunities for the air force to acquire hardware from other countries as well. Notably the Grob 120 trainers, ATR-72 and Beech 1900 transports and Bell 206 helicopters mark a change of scenery and increased diversity in the fleet. Still, the country is quite closed and not many local aircraft enthusiasts seem to exist or find their way there to share images of this strong and growing air force.