Myanmar Air Force


Myanmar Air Force
Emblem of the Myanmar Air Force.svg
Badge of the Myanmar Air Force
Founded16 January 1947; 74 years ago (1947-01-16)[1]
Country Myanmar
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size23,000 personnel
277 aircraft[2]
Part ofMyanmar Armed Forces
Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Armed ForcesSenior General Min Aung Hlaing
Minister of DefenceGeneral Mya Tun Oo
Commander-in-Chief of the Air ForceGeneral Maung Maung Kyaw
RoundelRoundel of Myanmar.svg
Fin flashFin Flash of Myanmar.svg
Aircraft flown
AttackNanchang Q-5
FighterSukhoi Su-30, Mikoyan MiG-29, JF-17 Thunder
HelicopterMil Mi-2, Mil Mi-17, Bell UH-1 Iroquois, Aérospatiale Alouette III, PZL W-3 Sokół
Attack helicopterMil Mi-35p
PatrolBritten-Norman BN-2 Islander
TrainerYak-130, K-8W, Grob G 120TP, HAL HJT-16 Kiran, K-8 Karakorum
TransportShaanxi Y-8, Harbin Y-12, Beechcraft 1900, ATR 42, ATR 72

The Myanmar Air Force (တပ်မတော် (လေ), pronounced [taʔmədɔ̀ lè]), known until 1989 as the Burmese Air Force, is the aerial branch of Myanmar's armed forces, the Tatmadaw. The primary mission of the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) since its inception has been to provide transport, logistical, and close air support to the Myanmar Army in counter-insurgency operations.[3] It is mainly used in internal conflicts in Myanmar, and, on a smaller scale, in relief missions,[4] especially after the deadly Cyclone Nargis of May 2008.


Post-Independence era (1948–1990)

The Myanmar Air Force (MAF) was formed as the Burmese Air Force on 16 January 1947, while Burma (as Myanmar was known until 1989) was still under British rule. By 1948, the fleet of the new air force included 40 Airspeed Oxfords, 16 de Havilland Tiger Moths, four Austers, and three Supermarine Spitfires transferred from the Royal Air Force, and had a few hundred personnel.[3]

The Mingaladon Air Base HQ, the main air base in the country, was formed on 16 June 1950. No.1 Squadron, Equipment Holding Unit and Air High Command - Burma Air Force, and the Flying Training School, were placed under the jurisdiction of the base. A few months later, on 18 December 1950, No. 2 Squadron was formed with nine Douglas Dakotas as a transport squadron. In 1953, the Advanced Flying Unit was formed under the Mingaladon Air Base with de Havilland Vampire T55s, and by the end of 1953 the Burmese Air Force had three main airbases, at Mingaladon, Hmawbi, and Meiktila, in central Burma.[3]

In 1953, the Burmese Air Force bought 30 Supermarine Spitfires from Israel and 20 Supermarine Seafires from the United Kingdom, and in 1954 it bought 40 Percival Provost T-53s and 8 de Havilland Vampire Mark T55s from the United Kingdom. In late 1955, the Burmese Air Force formed a Maintenance Air Base in Mingaladon, No. 501 Squadron Group (Hmawbi Airbase) and No. 502 Squadron Group (Mingaladon Air Base). In 1956, the Burmese Air Force bought 10 Cessna 180 aircraft from the United States. The same year, 6 Kawasaki Bell 47Gs formed its first helicopter unit. The following year, the Burmese Air Force procured 21 Hawker Sea Fury aircraft from the United Kingdom and 9 de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otters from Canada. In 1958, it procured 7 additional Kawasaki Bell 47Gs and 12 Vertol H-21 Shawnees from the United States.[3] Five years later, No. 503 Squadron Group was formed with No. 51 Squadron (de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otters and Cessna 180s) and No. 53 Squadron (Bell 47Gs, Kaman HH-43 Huskies, and Aérospatiale Alouettes) in Meiktila.[3]

On 15 February 1961, an unmarked Republic of China Air Force Consolidated PB4Y Privateer came into Burmese air space carrying supplies for Chinese Kuomintang forces fighting in northern Burma, and was intercepted by three Hawker Sea Fury fighters of the Burmese Air Force. The intruding bomber and one Burmese fighter crashed in Thailand during the incident.[5] On 17 February, a team from Burmese 9th Front Brigade left for the crash site. A 12.7mm bullet was fired into the fuselage of UB-466, hitting pilot officer Peter as well, breaking five of his ribs. Pilot officer Peter was recorded in the history of Burmese Air Force as an airman who gave his life for the country and the people.[6] In 1962, a new radar station in Mingaladon and a mobile radar station in Lwemwe (near Tachileik) were put into operation. By December 1964, the Burmese Air Force had 323 officers and 5,677 other ranks and it acquired Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainers and a new radar station, which could operate within a 120-mile (193-km) radius, was opened in Namsang. In 1966, the radar arm of the air force underwent a complete overhaul and upgrade, with new radar stations being operated. The Namsang Radar station was upgraded to cover about a 200-mile (322-km) radius and renamed No.71 Squadron. In the same year, the Burmese Air Force formed the No. 1 Airborne Battalion with 26 officers and 750 other ranks.[citation needed]

On 1 January 1967, the Burmese Air Force reorganized its command structure. No. 501 Squadron Group in Hmawbi became No. 501 Air Base HQ; No. 502 Squadron Group in Mingalardon became No. 502 Air Base HQ; and No. 503 Squadron Group in Meiktila became No. 503 Air Base HQ in Meiktila. It also maintained airfield detachments in Lashio and Kengtung to cope with the insurgency of Communist Party of Burma in the northeast border region of the country.[3]

In 1975, the Burmese Air Force took delivery of 18 Bell 205A and seven Bell 206B helicopters from the United States under the International Narcotic Control Program (INCP). In March 1975, it bought 20 SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 trainers from Italy.[3]

Between 1976 and 1987, the Burmese Air Force bought seven Pilatus PC-6 Turbo porter STOL aircraft; and 16 Pilatus PC-7 and 10 Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainers from Switzerland. These aircraft were deployed in Lashio for close air support in counter-insurgency operations.[3]

Modernisation programme (1990–present)

In the early 1990s, the Burmese Air Force upgraded its facilities and introduced two new air base headquarters and existing air base headquarters were renamed. It also significantly upgraded its radar and electronic warfare facilities. The Burmese Air Force bought more than 100 aircraft from the People's Republic of China, which included F7 IIK interceptors, FT-7 Trainers, A-5C Ground Attack Aircraft, FT-6M trainers, K-8 trainers and Y-8 transport aircraft.

In 1989, the Burmese Air Force was renamed the Myanmar Air Force in accordance with the country changing its name from Burma to Myanmar.

In December 1990, the Myanmar Air Force took the first delivery from China of 10 F7 IIK interceptors and two FT-7 Trainers followed by another batch of 12 F7 IIK interceptors in May 1993. Further deliveries of F7 IIK interceptors were made in 1995, 1998 and 1999.

By 2000, the Myanmar Air Force has received 62 F7 IIK interceptors from China.[3] Israel was contracted to refurbish and upgrade all operational F-7s and FT-7s: these were to get the Elta EL/M-2032 air-to-air radar,[7] Rafael Python Mk. III and even Litening laser-designator pods. The same equipment was then installed on the two-seater FT-7 fighter trainers as well. In a related deal, Israel delivered to Myanmar at least one consignment of laser-guided bombs, but no deliveries of any other weapons are known. Since the Elbit contract was won in 1997, the air force has acquired at least one more squadron of F-7 and FT-7 aircraft from China, but these were not upgraded.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Myanmar Air Force took delivery of 36 A-5C Ground Attack Aircraft from China. In addition, the Myanmar Air Force also bought 20 Soko G-4 Super Galeb armed jet trainers from Yugoslavia in 1991, but only approximately 6 aircraft were delivered due to the break up of Yugoslavia.

President Htin Kyaw and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pass in front of the MAF Honour Guards during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Naypyidaw in 2017.

The Myanmar Air Force procured a range of helicopters from Russia and Poland between 1991 and 1997; it bought 20 PZL-Swidnik Mil Mi-2 and 13 PZL W-3 Sokol helicopters from Poland and 13 Mil Mi-17 from Russia. These helicopters were put into counter-insurgency operations against ethnic rebels in the Irrawaddy River delta. Four Mil Mi-2, four PZL W-3 Sokol, and two Bell 205 helicopters were grouped as an air detachment stationed in Bogalay for "Operation Monediang" in October 1991. During this operation, Mil Mi-2 helicopters were fitted with a wide range of weapons to provide ground attack and air cover for heliborne air assault operations. Four Mil Mi-2s of the air detachment made a total of 80 sorties over 17 targets with nearly 82 flying hours. Four PZL W-3 Sokol helicopters, unarmed and used for troop transport carrying 20 airborne commandos, each flew 443 missions with 197 flying hours. Bell 205 helicopters carried out search and rescue, and they flew 263 missions with over 114 flying hours.[3]

In 2001, the Myanmar Air Force bought 12 MiG-29 Fighter Aircraft (10 MiG-29Bs and two MiG-29UB two seats trainers)[3] from Belarus. This was followed by an additional order of 20 MiG-29 (10 MiG-29B, 6 MiG-29SE and 4 MiG-29UB) as part of a $570 million defence package in December 2009. 10 MiG-29B were upgraded to SM (mod) standard in 2017.[8] Myanmar Air Force also ordered 10 Mil Mi-35 gunship helicopters as part of a $71 million defence package signed in December 2009.[9]

Despite these modernisation measures, the capability of the Myanmar Air Force remained questionable, due to its absence during the Battle of Border Post 9631 with Thailand and the rescue missions related to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

A contract had been signed in December 2015 with Pakistan for the purchase of JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter, which was jointly developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, to Myanmar Air Force. However in March 2018 it was reported that the deal for the purchase of JF-17 Thunder has been suspended by Pakistan.[10] However, four JF-17IIs were seen at Air Force Day celebrated in December 2018. Under a bilateral contract, the MAF ordered six Su-30SM fighters from Russia in 2018.[11]

Commanders in Chief and Chiefs of Air Staff since 1948

Commander-in-Chief and Chief of Air Staff in chronological order:

ID Rank Name Serial
1 Wing Commander Saw Shi Sho BAF1020
2 Major Tommy Clift (T. Clift) BAF1005
3 Lieutenant Colonel Thura Selwyn James Khin BAF1009
4 Brigadier General Thura Tommy Clift BAF1005
5 Brigadier General Thaung Dan BAF1042
6 Major General Thura Saw Phyu BAF1047
7 Major General Ko Gyi BAF1059
8 Lieutenant General Tin Tun BAF1127
9 Lieutenant General Thein Win BAF1193
10 Lieutenant General Tin Ngwe BAF1312
11 Lieutenant General Kyaw Than BAF1334
12 Major General Myint Swe BAF1587
13 General Myat Hein BAF1682
14 General Khin Aung Myint BAF1754
15 General Maung Maung Kyaw BAF1925

Rank structure


Personnel: 23,000 all ranks (including 1 Airborne (Paratroop) Battalion with twenty six officers and 750 other personnel of other ranks).[3]

  • Air Force headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Naypyitaw)
  • Aircraft Production and Repair Base Headquarters (Hmawbi)
  • Air Force - Ground Training Base (Meiktila)
  • Air Force - Fly Training Base (Shante)

Air bases

Meiktila Shante Air Base

Myanmar Air Force also utilised civilian airfields as front-line air fields in case of foreign invasion.

Air Defence

The Office of the chief of Air Defence is one of the major branches of Tatmadaw. It was established as the Air Defence Command in 1997 but was not fully operational until late 1999. It was renamed the Bureau of Air Defence in the early 2000s.In early 2000s, Tatmadaw established the Myanmar Integrated Air Defence System (MIADS) with help from Russia, Ukraine and China. It is a tri-service bureau with units from all three branches of Myanmar Armed Forces. All Air Defence assets except Anti-Aircraft Artillery are integrated into MIADS.[12]


Current inventory

A MiG-29B sits on the tarmac
A Shaanxi Y-8 lifts off from Yangon International Airport
A Nanchang A-5C Fantan
A Myanmar Air Force Fokker F27
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-29 Russia multirole SE/SM/UB 31[13] ten B variants used for training[14]
Sukhoi Su-30 Russia multirole Su-30SME 6 on order[15][13]
Nanchang Q-5 People's Republic of China attack A-5 21[13]
Chengdu J-7 People's Republic of China fighter F-7MB 21[13] licensed built MiG-21
Shenyang J-6 People's Republic of China fighter F-6 1[13] Chinese built version of the MiG-19
JF-17M Thunder China / Pakistan multirole 7 9 on order[13]
ATR-42 France VIP 6[13]
Shaanxi Y-8 China transport 5[13]
Harbin Y-12 China transport 2[13]
Fokker 70 Netherlands VIP transport 2[16][17]
Fokker F-27 Netherlands transport 1[13]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland utility / transport 5[13] STOL capable aircraft
Beechcraft 1900 United States utility / transport 8[13]
Britten-Norman BN-2 United Kingdom maritime patrol 1[13]
Mil Mi-2 Poland utility / liaison 21[13]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility 12[13]
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-35P 9[13] 10 on Order [18]
Bell UH-1 United States utility 14[13]
Alouette III France utility 13[13]
PZL W-3 Sokół Poland utility 12[13]
Trainer Aircraft
Yak-130 Russia advanced trainer 18[13]
G 120TP Germany basic trainer 20[13]
Soko G-4 Yugoslavia trainer / light attack 3[13]
Chengdu F-7 China conversion trainer FT-7MB 6[13]
Hongdu K-8 China / Pakistan jet trainer K-8W 12 50 on order[13]
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland light trainer 16[13]
Pilatus PC-9 Switzerland trainer 10[13]
Eurocopter EC120 France rotorcraft trainer 3[13]
CASC Rainbow China UCAV CH-3A 12[19]
CASC Rainbow[20] China UCAV CH-4 produced under lincense[21]
Sky 02 China surveillance 11[19]
Yellow Cat A2 Myanmar surveillance 22[19] domestic variant of the CH-3A


Name Origin Type Notes
Air-to-air missile
PL-2 China air to air missile 340 missiles obtained[22]
PL-5 China air to air missile 200 missiles obtained[22]
PL-12 China AAM beyond-visual-range missile 60 missiles obtained[22]
R-27 Russia AAM beyond-visual-range missile 100 missiles obtained[22]
R-73 Russia AAM beyond-visual-range missile 285 missiles obtained[22]
Anti-ship missile
YJ-83 China 30 missiles obtained[23]


The Air Force has several radar installations including the three-dimensional surveillance YLC-2 Radar, the P-37 Early-warning radar system, the JLP-40 defensive radar, and the Galaxy EWR system, which is linked with Integrated Air Defence office.[24][25][26][27][28][23]


Myanmar national insignia (white triangle with yellow field in the centre and borders in blue) is usually applied on six positions. The serialling system of Myanmar Air Force aircraft is suggested to serve as both – unit and individual aircraft identity, this could not be confirmed so far, however. Most of the older aeroplanes carried the serials with the prefix "UB" and the numbers in Burmese. Sometimes the serials were outlined in white. Combat aircraft generally carry serials in black.

Accidents and incidents

On 11 June 2014, a Mig-29UB caught fire and crashed on to farmland near Myothit township of Magway at 8:30 a.m. (local time). Two pilots safely ejected.[29] [30] [31]

On 10 February 2016, a Beech 1900 aircraft crashed after taking off from Naypidaw Airport, killing 5 military personnels. [32]

On 14 June 2016, a Mi-2 helicopter crashed near the Yangon–Mandalay Expressway at being refueled at the Taungngu airbase, killing three military servicemen on board.[33]

2017 Myanmar Air Force Shaanxi Y-8 crash: On 7 June 2017, a Shaanxi Y-8 was reported missing 30 nautical miles (56 km) west to Dawei. The aircraft was carrying 122 people. There were no survivors.

On 3 April 2018, An F-7 fighter aircraft of Taungoo Air Base has crashed into a farm near KyunKone Village in Taungoo. It is learned that the F-7, which is used as a training aircraft, was believed to have crashed while trying to land the ground at around 11:30 am. It is reported that a pilot was killed on the spot during the crash.[34]

On 16 October 2018, two Myanmar F-7Ms crashed near Magway, Myanmar, killing both pilots and a civilian on the ground. Both aircraft struck a broadcast tower. One plummeted into a rice paddy, while the other nose-dived near a famous Buddhist pagoda in the Magway region of central Myanmar.[35]

On 3 May 2021, one helicopter was shot down near the town of Moemauk in Kachin province by the Kachin Independence Army in response to the MAF's air raid. There was no confirmation from the MAF nor the KIA on which helicopter was shot down and which AA system was used by the KIA in the incident.[36]

On 11 June 2021, a Beechcraft 1900 crashed on its landing approach to Pyin Oo Lwin's airport, killing 12 people including a senior Buddhist monk, the abbot of Zay Kone Monastery in Pyinmana. [37]

On 8 August 2021, multiple aircraft were hit by shrapnel in two explosions at Magwe military airbase.

An alliance of resistance fighters and the Beikthano People’s Defense Force claimed responsibility for the attack. [38]

See also


  1. ^ "Myanmar Air Force - Narrative History". Aeroflight. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Flightglobal - World Air Forces 2015" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Myoe, Maung Aung: Building the Tatmadaw
  4. ^ "Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination in Emergencies: Towards a Predictable Model" (PDF). Regional Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific. 2017. pp. 79–82. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Intrusions, Overflights, Shootdowns and Defections During the Cold War and Thereafter." Archived 14 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 28 May 2013.
  6. ^ [in Myanmar]"Three Burmese airmen fight in the first air battle in Southeast Asia". 19 October 2017.
  7. ^ "MiG-21 2000 Fighter Ground Attack, Russia." Retrieved: 1 December 2010.[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ "Myanmar MiG-29 Upgrade Revealed". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Russia, Burma sign arms deal". 23 December 2009. Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Russia Begins Assembly Of Su-30SMs Meant For Myanmar". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  12. ^ IndraStra Global Editorial Team (30 October 2020). "Myanmar Integrated Air Defense System". Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "World Air Forces 2021". Flightglobal Insight. 2021. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Myanmar MiG-29 Upgrade Revealed". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Moscow to deliver six Su-30 fighter aircraft to Myanmar". TASS. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  16. ^ Zin Win, Kyaw (16 December 2017). "Military chief commissions 10 airplanes while calling for more". Eleven Myanmar. Archived from the original on 24 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  17. ^ Davis, Anthony. "MAF's newly inducted aircraft to boost service's COIN capabilities". IHS Jane's 360. Archived from the original on 23 February 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  18. ^ Lefkowitz, R. J. (15 September 1975). "Identification of adenylate cyclase-coupled beta-adrenergic receptors with radiolabeled beta-adrenergic antagonists". Biochemical Pharmacology. 24 (18): 1651–1658. doi:10.1016/0006-2952(75)90001-5. ISSN 0006-2952. PMID 11.
  19. ^ a b c "Is Myanmar Using Armed Chinese Drones For Counterinsurgency?". 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  20. ^ Weinberger (Foreign Policy), Sharon (10 May 2018). "China Has Already Won the Drone Wars". Archived from the original on 22 October 2020.
  21. ^ United Nations Human Right Office of the High Commissioner, OHCHR (August 2019). "Arms and Military Equipment Suppliers to the Tatmadaw" (PDF). United Nations. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 October 2020.
  22. ^ a b c d e "Arms Transfers Database". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  23. ^ a b "SIPRI Trade Register". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  24. ^ IndraStra Global Editorial Team (30 October 2020). "Myanmar Integrated Air Defense System". Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  25. ^ Maung, Aung Myoe (2009). Building the Tatmadaw: Myanmar Armed Forces Since 1948. p. 107. ISBN 978-981-230-848-1.
  26. ^ Gander, Terry J. (22 November 2000). "National inventories, Myanmar (Burma)". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001-2002. p. 3112.
  27. ^ China's People, Military (4 September 2014). "外媒:中国售缅甸机动雷达 巴基斯坦评价不错". Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  28. ^ THE IRRAWADDY. "Junta Stations New Missile Battalion on Border". Archived from the original on 15 October 2020.
  29. ^ "မကွေးလေတပ်စခန်းက MIG 29 တိုက်လေယာဉ်ပျက်ကျ". Radio Free Asia (in Burmese). Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  30. ^ "ေလ့က်င့္ေရးတုိက္ေလယာဥ္ပ်က္က်". VOA News (in Burmese). Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  31. ^ "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 166859". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  32. ^ "Myanmar military plane crash kills 4".
  33. ^ "Military helicopter crash kills 3 in Myanmar".
  34. ^ "Myanmar military training jet crashes, pilot killed". thestatesman. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  35. ^ Beech, Hannah; Nang, Saw (16 October 2018). "2 Myanmar Fighter Jets Crash, Killing Pilots and an 11-Year-Old". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Kachin rebels shoot down military helicopter as parcel bomb kills 5 in central Myanmar".
  37. ^ "Myanmar military plane crash kills 12, including senior monk". CNA. 11 June 2021.
  38. ^ "Myanmar Rebels Damage Aircraft During Airbase Attack". The Irrawaddy. 16 August 2021. Retrieved 24 August 2021.


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