United Wa State Army military parade showcases ongoing modernisation

by Anthony Davis

Myanmar’s largest ethnic armed force, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has underscored an ongoing process of modernisation, based largely on Chinese equipment, in a large parade to mark the 30th anniversary of its founding.

During a military parade held on 17 April the UWSA displayed Chinese-made equipment, including FN-6 MANPADSs. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

During a military parade held on 17 April the UWSA displayed Chinese-made equipment, including FN-6 MANPADSs. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

Overseen by UWSA commander-in-chief Bao Youxiang, the march-past, which involved about 7,500 troops, was held on 17 April outside Panghsang: the capital of the UWSA-administered wedge of autonomous territory located between the Salween River and the Chinese border.

Troops participating in the parade displayed for the first time a range of Chinese equipment that the UWSA had inducted between 2011 and 2013 as part of a sweeping modernisation and expansion programme. The build-up had been driven by concern over mounting pressure exerted by the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) on ethnic factions to subordinate themselves under a national command structure.

Notable in the march-past were what appeared to be twin-barrelled 14.5 mm ZU-2-based towed anti-aircraft guns, as well as third-generation FN-6 manportable air defence systems (MANPADSs), which have replaced the obsolete HN-5A systems previously in UWSA inventory.

During a military parade held on 17 April the UWSA displayed what appeared to be twin-barrelled 14.5 mm ZU-2-based towed anti-aircraft guns (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

During a military parade held on 17 April the UWSA displayed what appeared to be twin-barrelled 14.5 mm ZU-2-based towed anti-aircraft guns (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

Other modern Chinese infantry weapon systems included 5.56 mm QBZ-97 assault rifles that are gradually replacing the Chinese-designed 7.62 mm Type 81 assault rifles manufactured by the UWSA itself; Type 56 series 7.62 mm assault rifles; 7.62 mm Type 79 semi-automatic sniper rifles; truck-mounted 12.7 mm QJZ89 heavy machine guns; and Type 69 rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

During a military parade held on 17 April the UWSA displayed recently acquired equipment, including an unmanned aerial vehicle carried on the back of a truck. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

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Myanmar’s largest ethnic armed force, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has underscored an ongoing pr...

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