Burma Army Deploying Armed Drones

By Saw Yan Naing 13 June 2016

RANGOON—The Burma Army has deployed armed military drones in ethnic minority regions in Burma’s north, likely for surveillance and surgical strikes, said a  military analyst in a report for the consultancy IHS Jane’s.

“The unmanned combat aerial vehicles [UCAVs] can be used for reconnaissance and surveillance for extended periods over remote terrain, and for surgical strike missions,” Anthony Davis, a Bangkok-based military expert who writes for IHS Jane’s, told The Irrawaddy.

The IHS has confirmed that one or more Chinese-made CH-3A drones, with the capacity to carry air-to-ground missiles and satellite-guided bombs, have been deployed from an airfield—likely Lashio in northern Shan State or Bhamo in southeastern Kachin State.

Davis noted that the CH-3As have not typically been used in Burma other than in Shan State’s Kokang Self-Administered Zone last year, which is believed to be the first time they were used in the country.

The Kokang Army, also known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), was in protracted conflict with the Burma Army last year, during which time the government army conducted airstrikes against the Kokang army’s bases.

“They [the drones] can play an important role in gathering intelligence. As we’ve seen in the Pakistani tribal areas, they can be lethally effective in surgical strikes against insurgent command centers—provided there is adequate intelligence on the ground level on which to base the targets,” said Davis.

The IHS confirmed the deployment of the drones after a picture, believed to be taken by a serviceman, was posted on Facebook. The photograph showed a group of seven military personnel standing around a CH-3A, with its distinctive three-bladed propeller.

It appears that the CH-3As have also been deployed along the Bangladesh border. However, it is unclear whether that is because of Arakan Army (AA) insurgent activity or in support of border reconnaissance for counternarcotics and counter illegal migration purposes, said Davis.