“Made by several countries” is the main strength of warplanes Inaccurate bombing due to several factors
GT special correspondent visiting Yunnan Qiu Yongzheng, GT special correspondent Tian Yu
People on the Chinese side face “fish crisis” due to several months of continuous military conflict in northern Burma. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, told at a regular press conference, it is clear that the casualties on the Chinese side were caused by a bomb from Burmese military aircraft. The investigation team sent by Burmese side has already reached the China-Myanmar border area to carry out a joint investigation along with the Chinese side. On March 16, photos, showing Chinese Air Force gathered in large numbers at the China-Myanmar border, were circulating on the web. So, how powerful is the Myanmar Air Force?
What does a “civil war-specialised Air Force” possess?
Air force has been one of the most frequently used armed forces in the long-drawn-out conflict with the local minority ethnic rebels (local rebels), so much so that it can be called a “civil war-special air force”. Austrian Aviation history expert, Tom Cooper, explains the main mission of Myanmar air force and the build up of its arsenal has revolved around fighting insurgency since 1950s.According to Britain’s “Jane’s Defence Weekly”, total strength of Myanmar Air Force, at present, is about 23,000 personnel, deployed at the strategic points across the country. Air force headquarters in Yangon is the highest body of Myanmar Air Force, air commodore is the supreme commander of air force, and usually he also serves as the deputy chief of Myanmar Armed Forces. The headquarters directly governs air force units, radar units, and paratrooper units etc. Myanmar Air Force controls many other control centres like northern, southern, western, eastern and south-eastern command etc. and often makes use of Myitkyina, Lashio, Bhamo, Mawlamyine (or Moulmein) airports to deal with the local rebels. Myanmar Air Force has already installed optical fibre communication network between the major bases in the country; it can now integrate the control of fighters, radars, surface to air missiles and can have certain command automation ability.
Myanmar Air force has 5 air bases, 1 air training base, 1 ground service training base, and 1 maintenance base, more than 300 fully equipped aeroplanes, of which more than 150 fighter aircrafts, mainly F-7, Q-5, PC-9, MIG-29 and others. Besides this, it also has 14 cargo aircrafts, 7 liaison aircrafts and 66 helicopters. Since 1990s till today, Myanmar Air Force has imported many types of fixed-wing fighter aircrafts and helicopters from Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland and China. It has also set up a special procurement office in India to obtain spare parts for Russian made fighter aircrafts from India.
Why repeated mistakes in ground attacks?
As for the equipment, the overall strength of Myanmar Air Force is inferior to that of most of the countries in its neighbourhood. It’s not enough to guard the country’s land territory but can just about deal with the defenceless local insurgents. Since conflict ridden areas of northern Myanmar are mountainous, the movement of ground forces is inconvenient; therefore Burmese Military usually employs its air force in these areas. Besides using the helicopters for delivering supplies in the mountains, Burmese Army also often uses the warplanes and helicopters to carry out raids and combats.
National Democratic Alliance Army (Kokang) sources told “Global Times” journalist, Myanmar Air Force usually uses Q-5 and MIG -29 fighters to attack Kokang region. Of these the low altitude performance Q-5 carries the conventional bombs and is used for bombing, MIG-29 however uses guns and rockets to carry out the ground attack. These warplanes take off mainly from Lashio base, which has already become Myanmar’s most important frontline airport, equipped with complete ammunition, fuel supply and logistics maintenance capabilities.
The sources revealed, the poor accuracy of Myanmar Air Force bombing is due to several factors. First of all, Myanmar Air Force fighters had received training to attack fixed ground positions and facilities etc., these while dealing with agile individual targets of NDAA (Kokang) guerrillas fair quite badly. Secondly, in the high mountains and dense forests, it’s very difficult for the warplanes to discern ground targets from far above. Besides, the shortage of qualified pilots is also an important reason for the repeated mistakes by Myanmar Air Force in dropping bombs. It is alleged that in Myanmar Air Force, ranks of pilots really having the complete grasp of combat skills are generally squadron leader and above.
“Global Times” reporter has learnt, Myanmar Army has some air to ground coordination capability but on the whole tactics appear very rigid. Their attack pattern is always the same; first aircrafts are dispatched to bomb, then gunners shoot and at the end infantry assaults. NDAA (Kokang) sources say, as direct bombing is not so effective, Myanmar Air Force, since sometime, first drops the bomb using the fixed-wing aircraft and “arouses suspicion” then using the modified assault helicopters at low altitudes shoots at the revealed targets one by one. Since NDAA (Kokang) basically does not have air defence capability, this sort of low level close range shooting is a big threat for them. At present Myanmar Air Force mainly uses Russian and Polish Mi-8, Mi-171, Mi-35 and PZLW-3 helicopters.
It is reported that to counter air attack tactics of Myanmar Army, NDAA (Kokang) deploys the light machine guns at high ground, it claims to “have gunned down several of Myanmar Army helicopters” using this ambush technique. Other than this NDAA (Kokang) also builds multilayered semi-underground wooden bunkers, making it difficult for Myanmar Air Force to harm them.
China to step up border surveillance for prevention and control
According to a claim on America’s “Wall Street Journal” website, following the March 13 Chinese casualties in the Myanmar airstrike, Chinese army has taken a series of precautionary measures to prevent and control such incidents at the border. On March 16, there were photos on the web of Chinese Air Force Fighter planes parked at the airports close to the border and air defence troops deployed at the border. One can see in these pictures, J-11, J-7 fighters, carrying bombs, on patrol, “HQ-12” surface to air missile and air surveillance radar pushed forward to the Lincang territory in Yunan, bordering Myanmar. This sort of “combined land and air” surveillance is using high performance fighter crafts to patrol the border, to monitor and intercept any Myanmar Aircraft crossing the border. Meanwhile, due to the high mountains surrounding the China Myanmar border, there are many gaps in radar coverage; therefore ground and air defence coordination has been intentionally strengthened. To prevent the low altitude targets from crossing the border, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has also put PG-99 twin-barrel 35 mm rapid fire guns, they can fire up to 1100 rounds per minute, their instantaneous delivery of intense firepower is quite remarkable. As the effective range of twin-barrel 35mm anti-aircraft gun is 4000 metres, one fire unit therefore can control a substantially large airspace and it is extremely effective in intercepting rapidly penetrating low altitude targets.
本报赴云南特派记者 邱永峥 本报特约记者 田聿