Myanmar Coup Maker Visits Russian Military Aviation Hub

By The Irrawaddy 23 June 2021

Coup maker Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his entourage stopped in Irkutsk, in Russia’s Siberia region, on his way to Moscow on Sunday, according to an informed source.

The Airbus 319-112 (flight number MMA001) operated by Myanmar Airways International that carried the delegation stopped there for a few hours before heading to the Russian capital, where Min Aung Hlaing is attending a security conference.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and his delegation in a group photo during their visit to the Irkutsk Aviation Plant in April 2019. / Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s website

Why Irkutsk? Russia’s 25th-largest city, and the fifth-largest in the Siberian Federal District, is best known as the home of the plant that manufactures the Su-30 family of interceptor/ground-attack aircraft.

The Russian government has merged Irkut, which builds the planes, with Ilyushin, Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Tupolev and Yakovlev to form a new company, United Aircraft Building Corporation.

Myanmar placed an order for six Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets under a contract worth about US$204 million signed between the two nations in 2018.

It was not Min Aung Hlaing’s first stopover in the city. In April 2019 he traveled there to personally inspect production of the planes at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant.

At the time, Yangon-based analysts close to the military said Myanmar’s Air Force possessed reasonable firepower, sufficient to deter any kind of external invasion. They speculated that the likely aim of buying the expensive Su-30SM multirole fighter jets, which are capable of long-distance operations, was to achieve airspace superiority in the region, particularly in relation to Myanmar’s neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

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