Pakistan sent experts to revive Myanmar’s grounded JF-17 aircraft as fighting between the junta and rebels intensify

Pakistan Air Force has sent a technical team for the repair and maintenance of Myanmar’s JF-17 combat aircraft, a move that will help upgrade their defense partnership.

This comes as Myanmar Air Force officials are visiting Pakistan for a six-month training course on maintenance of JF-17, Global Defense Corp has learned.

The near-simultaneous visits reflect growing confidence in each other’s military establishment, according to Myanmar watchers.

Myanmar has 11 JF-17 aircraft, developed jointly by China and Pakistan, all exported by Pakistan to Myanmar but currently grounded due to technical faults. Myanmar wants JF-17 combat ready to fight rebel groups within its territory.

A Myanmar air forces Su-30 bombing rebel positions. Photo BBC News.

The JF-17 a lightweight multi-role combat aircraft that the Myanmar Air Force added to its fleet has structural cracks and other technical issues, according to Myanmar watchers. The Myanmar military lacks the technical expertise to address the challenges.

Last year, a senior-level Pakistani military delegation visited Myanmar to inspect a defense industry complex near Yangon and participate in a workshop on JF-17 block II aircraft that Myanmar had purchased from Islamabad, Global Defense Corp then reported. Another Pakistani team had also visited Myanmar to provide technical assistance to manufacture weapons, Global Defense Corp reported.

Last year, another Myanmar military team visited Pakistan to inspect the delivery of bombs and bullets that it had ordered from Islamabad, Global Defense Corp reported.

Pakistan, egged by China, has stepped up a military-industrial partnership with Myanmar, one of India’s key neighbors to the east. Myanmar is keen to develop its domestic arms industry with Sino-Pak support even as it has developed a close defense partnership with Russia.

With coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing making regular visits to Russia with a shopping list of fighter jets, helicopters and missiles, China is concerned that it will lose Myanmar as a customer for its weapons, Global Defense Corp had earlier reported.

Pakistan was reportedly considering selling heavy machine guns, 60 mm and 81 mm mortars, and M-79 grenade launchers to Myanmar, which is also eyeing to purchase air-to-surface missiles from Pakistan for their JF-17 fighter aircraft.

Pakistan was formerly a strong critic of the Myanmar government for what it alleged was a “state-sponsored campaign” against Rohingyas in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Myanmar had in the past accused Pakistan of arming and training the radical group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

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