Two years into Myanmar’s civil conflict, rebel groups claim that using civilian drones modified to drop bombs on junta troops is helping to shift the balance of power against the better-equipped military. Initially, the army used drones to monitor and suppress pro-democracy protests in Yangon. When the anti-junta People’s Defense Force was formed after the coup, its members were armed with only slingshots and outdated rifles. The rebels later added homemade landmines and then drones to their weapons, which they say are effective, safe, accurate, and require little manpower. A member of the PDF’s drone unit said that drone strikes may end up being a decisive tool in some areas and that the junta troops are increasingly scared of these attacks. According to three drone units, they carried out a total of 642 drone attacks in four regions last year.
The executive director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, made up of former military officers, Thein Tun Oo, recognizes the danger posed by PDF drones and states that the military is using technology to counteract these attacks. Thein Tun Oo explained that they can limit the number of drones entering their areas and bring some down with the use of drone guns and frequency jammers. However, a former Air Force captain who defected to the resistance, Zay Thu Aung, noted that while the junta has unlimited financial resources to buy drone protection systems, its ground troops lack the education to effectively operate this high-tech equipment and it would be too hard to deploy it to all the frontlines throughout the country.
The success of the rebel drone units against the military has its limitations, according to a Wings of the Irrawaddy fighter. Upgrading a commercial drone into an attack drone is costly and requires many parts. Drones are also vulnerable to being shot down. The drone units can only operate during the day, but they plan to add night vision cameras in 2023.
The Falcon Wings, a People’s Defense Force (PDF) drone unit, reported that it carried out 437 attacks in 2022, resulting in the death of 200 military soldiers, according to a January 4 report. Another PDF drone unit in Loikaw township, Kayah reported carrying out 125 drone attacks in 2022 but did not provide information on military casualties. The Wings of the Irrawaddy group claimed to have conducted 80 drone attacks in 2022, killing 80-100 junta troops.
Source: Radio Free Asia