As part of a wide-ranging modernisation programme the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) commissioned 10 new aircraft on 15 December. Comprising both turbo-fan and turbo-prop transport aircraft as well as advanced jet-trainer/ground attack platforms, the latest acquisitions reflect the growing role played by the MAF in counter-insurgency (COIN) operations.
The commissioning ceremony took place at Meiktila Air Base to mark the 70th anniversary of the service. The event was presided over by Armed Forces Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing who in a speech pointed to the importance of air force modernisation to support ground forces in an era of asymmetrical warfare.
The newly inducted platforms consisted of six Yakovlev Yak-130 ‘Mitten’ advanced jet trainer/light-attack aircraft, and four transports: two medium-range twin-engined Fokker 70s and two twin-turbo-prop ATR 42-320s.
Following a contract signed in 2015, the MAF inducted its first three YAK-130s in 2016 and three more are scheduled to follow next year. Both as a trainer and an armed combat platform, the Russian-built subsonic lead-in fighter trainer enters the MAF inventory as a marked upgrade over the Sino-Pakistani produced K-8 Karakoram jet trainer/light strike aircraft, which has been in MAF service since the late 1990s.
The K-8 has been frequently deployed to carry out close air support missions against insurgents in Kachin and Shan states in northern Myanmar.
The exact role the Fokker 70s and ATR 42-320s will play remains unclear but troop transport in a fluid security environment characterised by multiple insurgent fronts in the north, northeast, east, and west of the country will almost certainly feature prominently.
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