Military Chief Touts Air Force Procurement

By The Irrawaddy 25 June 2015

RANGOON — The Burma Air Force has purchased 36 aircraft over the last four years, according to a press release from the country’s Ministry of Defense, and a recent report predicts defense spending will increase by nearly one-third by 2020.

In a statement chronicling Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance at a ceremony christening newly acquired aircraft at a flight training base in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division, on Wednesday, the military commander in chief was quoted as saying the buildup of military hardware was needed to keep Burma on even footing with other countries in the region.

On four occasions the Air Force has upgraded its fleet with “newly acquired, modernized aircraft over four years—29 airplanes of four different types and seven helicopters of three different types—altogether 36,” he said on Wednesday.

The newly acquired aircraft entering service on Wednesday included Beech-1900D and Grob-120 TP airplanes, and Mi-35 and Bell-206 helicopters, according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, a report this month by research firm Research and Markets projected Burma’s military spending to increase by 32 percent from its 2015 level, US$2.8 billion, to $3.7 billion. The findings of the report, titled “Future of the Myanmarese Defense Industry – Market Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2020,” were compared with the period from 2011 to 2015, when the military’s budget allocation increased by 40 percent, from $2 billion to $2.8 billion.

“Myanmarese military expenditure will be driven by the country’s need to ensure a smooth political transition, the civil war prevailing in the country, and a dispute with Bangladesh over the control of oil and gas reserves along its maritime boundaries,” the report says.

The projected increase comes even as the Burmese government continues to seek a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the country’s ethnic armed groups, a yet unfulfilled aspiration that it says is a prerequisite for a more durable peace and national reconciliation.

In recent months, the Burma Air Force has been called into rare action to support ground troops fighting rebels in the Kokang Special Region of northeastern Shan State. Prior to that, the last known air offensive was against positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in late 2012.

As a percentage of total spending, Burma is one of the region’s most militaristic countries, a distinction that has persisted for years despite the Southeast Asian nation having no external enemies.