Russian Su-30s Add Wings to Myanmar Junta’s ‘Man-Eating Tiger’

By The Irrawaddy 10 November 2022

While citizens at home and abroad mourn for the more than 100 people killed in the junta’s October 23 airstrike on a concert in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township, the regime and its supporters are praising the growing potency of its air force.

Myanmar Witness, an organization documenting human rights violations in Myanmar, said it spotted a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighter-jet on the runway of Naypyitaw airbase on October 17.

Two Su-30 fighters were delivered to Myanmar before September, The Irrawaddy has learned. A junta spokesman then told the BBC that the Su-30s were ready to be used.

So, there is a possibility that Su-30 fighters were responsible for the nighttime concert bombing on October 23.

For a Myanmar military conducting a deadly air campaign against non-military targets, the acquisition of two Su-30s – by far the most advanced aircraft in the regime’s fleet – has added wings to a man-eating tiger.

Able to fly in all weather conditions, Su-30 fighters have a range of 3,000 kilometers, making them an ideal choice for long-distance operations. This means they can be used to drop bombs across the entire country from their base in Naypyitaw.

Former captain Zay Thu Aung, a Myanmar Air Force defector, told The Irrawaddy that an Su-30 can carry as many as four 1,110-pound bombs while the regime’s other warplanes can carry only one.

Early this year, junta pilots led by Colonel Khant Nay Lay underwent training to operate and maintain Su-30 fighters in Russia.

The two sides struck a deal for the fighters during Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Myanmar in January 2018. A few months later, then air force chief General Maung Maung Kyaw flew to Russia to test-fly an Su-30 fighter in Moscow.

Maung Maung Kyaw was forced to step down early this year, and his replacement General Tun Aung has escalated the deadly air campaign against civilian targets, for which he was sanctioned by the European Union on November 8.

Canada, Britain, and the US have also imposed sanctions against the air force chief.