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Wings over Mandalay: Myanmar's junta deploy Chinese-made CH-3A tactical UAVs to observe protest movements

Kelvin Wong, unmanned systems editor has confirmed the use of the Chinese-made CH-3A tactical UAV in Myanmar. The latest open-source intelligence from Janes follows. 

Key points

  • Myanmar’s military junta has begun to use its unmanned aerial vehicles to support its operations against protest movements.
  • A rare sighting of the Chinese-made CH-3A tactical UAV over Mandalay has enabled Janes to confirm that it is in operational use in Myanmar following years of speculation.

Popular unrest in central Myanmar has been steadily increasing in the two months since the military, known as the Tatmadaw, seized power from the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government in a 1 February coup. The unconstitutional removal of the government has prompted daily street protests and other forms of civil disobedience that have led to armed clashes with security forces, resulting in over 550 reported civilian deaths to date.

Images circulated on social media in March suggest that the Tatmadaw has begun to employ its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) assets to monitor protest activities in central Myanmar, with at least two types of UAVs documented flying at altitudes low enough to be “seen and heard” by residents in the city of Mandalay.

Among these images is a CH-3A (Cai Hong-3A, or Rainbow-3A) tactical UAV seen orbiting over urban centres in late March. The sighting of the air vehicle, which is developed by Chinese state-owned defence prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), is especially noteworthy given the secrecy in how the Tatmadaw has operated it.

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