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Myanmar Army airmobile operation meets high casualties

The Myanmar Army has suffered a stinging reverse in northwestern Shan State in an abortive airmobile operation that has underscored the limitations of offensive capabilities increasingly dependent on air power.

Insurgent sources reported that 47 army troops had been killed and 24 captured in an airmobile operation that began on 7 December in Namhsan township and was targeted against the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic insurgent force dominant in hill country across the north and northwest of Shan State. Sources close to the army in Yangon who spoke to Janes reported that army casualties had been notably higher with more than 100 men killed.

The setback almost certainly marked the highest losses suffered in a single action over consecutive days since the military coup of February 2021 triggered a popular uprising across much of central Myanmar and widespread hostilities nationwide.

Part of a broader offensive against the TNLA, the operation involved the insertion of about 200 troops – or a battalion-sized unit in the Myanmar Army – in five Mi-17 helicopters. This marked the largest airmobile assault reported since the coup.

Likely launched from the nearby airbase at Lashio, headquarters of the army's Northeastern Regional Miliary Command, the attack was apparently intended to strike a base camp or even a position identified as the headquarters of the TNLA near Hu Man and Kone Thar villages.

However, despite support from Mil Mi-35 helicopter gunships and fixed-wing ground attacks jets, the force found itself under immediate and growing pressure from TNLA forces and cut off from reinforcement by road.

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