More MiG-29s for Myanmar
In late December 2009, reports surfaced that Myanmar (formerly Burma) had signed a EUR 400 million (about $571 million) deal with Russia’s Rosoboronexport for 20 MiG-29D fighters. Some sources add a deal for more Mi-35 attack helicopters, and place the entire package at EUR 450 million.
By comparison, the Tripartite Core Group (UN, ASEAN, and Burma’s Junta) launched [PDF] a 3-year Post-[Cyclone] Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) in February 2009, appealing for international donations of $691 million…
Myanmar’s air force ordered 12 MiG-29Bs from Russia in 2001, to supplement a fleet that mostly relies on Chinese F-7 (MiG-21 copy) and J-6/ Q-5 (MiG-19 copy and heavily modified MiG-19 derivative) fighters. Current levels of readiness among the regime’s existing aircraft types are uncertain, and in late January 2010, one of those F-7s crashed, killing the pilot. This is not uncommon with MiG-21s and their derivatives, which can be challenging to fly safely.
The Russian bid reportedly beat a Chinese offer to supply 4+ generation J-10/ FC-20 fighters, or the cheaper JF-17/ FC-1 Thunder lightweight fighter. Implicitly, it also edged out neighboring Malaysia, who is preparing to sell its MiG-29N fleet at a discounted price. This is good news for RAC-MiG, whose financial troubles and low order volume led to a shotgun merger with Russia’s state-owned United Aircraft Corporation, government bailouts, and doubts about the long-term future of its technologies.
China has close relations with Myanmar, and remains one of its main international supporters, so its presence as Russia’s main arms competitor in Myanmar is hardly surprising. Russia’s MiGs gave it a foothold of its own, and the SPDC regime is also cooperating with Russia to build a nuclear power plant, reportedly a Russian 10-megawatt design with low enriched (under 20% U-235) uranium.
Those relations with Russia can be a somewhat touchy subject, it seems. Recently, the SPDC regime sentenced 2 government officials to death for leaking information about state visits to North Korea and to Russia, and about underground tunnels being built around the new capital with North Korean help.
Aug 4/11: A Eurasia Review article suggests that the deal may not be a contract yet, and gives a figure of $750 million. At the same time, a Voice of Russia article treats the deal as done, with only delivery to follow. That latter view has been the tenor of most reporting to date. Eurasia Review | Voice of Russia.
March 2/11: Flight International reports that the regime’s new aircraft will include 10 MiG-29B air superiority fighters; 6 upgraded MiG-29SEs with extra fuel, updated radar, and the ability to fire modern AA-12/R77 medium range air to air missiles; and 4 MiG-29UB twin-seat trainers, which do not have radars installed. The publication adds that:
“The acquisition effectively clears the remaining MiG-29B/SE stock at RSK MiG’s Lukhovitsy plant, with the airframe parts having been manufactured in the Soviet and Perestroika eras. Myanmar’s aircraft will be delivered in an original export configuration, with analogue instruments and Phazotron N-019 radars… Meanwhile, RSK MiG says a new logistics support system to be established in co-operation with Indian companies will enable it to provide increased customer support for the nation’s MiG-29s, plus those flown by the air forces of Malaysia and Myanmar.”
Note that the MiG-29SE lacks the precision ground attack capabilities that were the hallmark of the subsequent MiG-29SM model. The regime’s MiG-21s are even weaker ground attack aircraft, leaving its Chinese J-6/Q-5 fighters, K-8 trainer and light attack jets, and modified Swiss Pilatus PC-9s to play bigger roles in the regime’s anti-population operations.