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Armament and Force Modernization 105 4 Armament and Force Modernization Before 1988, the Tatmadaw had been poorly equipped and modestly maintained and its weapons were of World War II vantage. Most of the Tatmadaw’s major arms procurements, including aircraft and surface ships, were made in the 1950s and early 1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Tatmadaw’s order of battle had been a very modest one compared with most of its neighbours. In this regard, the force modernization in Myanmar has been one long overdue. With the coming of the SLORC in September 1988, the Tatmadaw began to pursue a force modernization programme. The Tatmadaw had injected a massive amount of resources to boost its order of battle.1 Moreover, the Tatmadaw embarked on ambitious arm production and procurement programmes. The force modernization programme of the Tatmadaw since the early 1990s indicates that external security threats had significantly influenced the Tatmadaw’s threat perception. In accordance with its modified military doctrine, the Tatmadaw has been building up conventional war fighting capabilities. While it procured most of its artillery, aircraft, and surface ships from oversea sources, the Tatmadaw relied more or less on its domestic defence industries for small arms production as it has long been pursuing a policy of self-sufficiency in small arms and ammunition production. Force modernization took place for all aspects of the Tatmadaw. Here I will discuss the modernization of three services of the Tatmadaw, mostly in terms of military capability and order of battle. 105 04 Bldg Tatmadaw.indd 105 12/29/08 8:43:04 AM 106 Building the Tatmadaw The Tatmadaw-Kyi (the Army) In his analysis of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Andrew Selth remarked that: The army was essentially a lightly equipped infantry force organized and deployed for counterinsurgency operations. While it was experienced and battle-hardened, its heavier equipment was obsolete, its logistics and communications systems were very weak and operations were constantly hampered by shortages of transport, fuel and ammunition. The navy and air force were both very small services, largely relegated to roles in support of the army. The navy was only capable of coastal and river patrols, and the air force was structured almost exclusively for ground support. Both suffered from obsolescent weapons platforms, poor communications equipment, a lack of spare parts and a shortage of skilled manpower.2 In one way, the force modernization of the Tatmadaw-Kyi was closely related to the building of local defence industries. Since the day of Myanmar’s independence, the Tatmadaw has been implementing a policy of selfsufficiency in small arms and ammunition production. To not only save its foreign exchange reserves, and depend less on foreign powers for arms and ammunition supply,3 but also to maintain defence science and technological bases, the Tatmadaw-Kyi has built a number of ordnance facilities. In the early 1950s, the Tatmadaw began to build up its Defence Industries (DI), known as “Kapasa”, under the General Staff Office. The first locally built small arm is known as BA-52 or “Ne Win Sten”, a Myanmar copy of the Italian 9-mm TZ45 sub-machine gun. Although the design was rough, and the performance unreliable, it remained a standard sub-machine gun with the infantry until the mid-1980s, and with the support battalion until the early 1990s.4 By the late 1950s, the DI expanded its arms and ammunition production facilities by entering into a contract with the Federal Republic of Germany stateowned Fritz Werner. Then, factories under the DI began to produce BA-63 Automatic Rifle (G-3A2) [Maun-Pyan-Raiphae], BA-72 Assault Rifle (G-3K) [Che-Hmone-Ye-Raiphae], BA-64 Light Machine Gun (G-4) [Set-Lat], BA-100 (G-3A3ZF) and 7.62-mm and 9-mm ammunition. The BA-63 Rifle has subsequently become the standard rifle of the Tatmadaw. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Tatmadaw-Kyi built several DI factories on the western bank of Ayerwaddy River near Pyay. These factories also produced grenades (BA-80/BA-92 rifle grenade, BA-77 anti-personnel hand grenade, BA-88 offensive hand grenade, BA-91 defensive hand grenade, BA-101 general purpose grenade, and BA-109 hand grenade), anti-personnel mines (MM-1 and MM-2), and mortars (60-mm BA-100, 81-mm BA-90 and 120-mm 04 Bldg Tatmadaw.indd 106 12/29/08 8:43:05 AM Armament and Force Modernization 107 BA-97), as well as ammunition. In spite of the...


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