Tatmadaw Yay: next entry into the active service of the first Burmese submarine

India will cede the INS in two weeks Sindhuvir (1988 – 2019), submarine of the project 877EKM, to the navy of Burma or Myanmar (Tatmadaw Yay). Obtaining a first submarine capability is not only a specific response to Bangladesh and its first submarines; it is also one of the last manifestations of the first cycle of submarine power or “submarine race” initiated in Southeast Asia by Việt Nam (1997) and Malaysia (2002).

The project of obtaining a submarine capability by Burma does not initially appear to have a direct link with the naval capabilities of its neighbors and regional rivals in the context of a security dilemma ("my neighbor arms, therefore I arm myself too). As early as 1999, it was claimed that officers of the Burmese navy would have followed training within the Pakistani Navy (Pɑkistan Bahri'a) from its class submarines. Hashmat (Hashmat (1979) et Hurmat (1980) of the type Agosta 70, French design and workmanship.

Subsequently, the Iraqi episode of 2003 would have crystallized many concerns in Burma to the point of moving the capital from Rangoon to Naypyidaw (2005), i.e. from the coast to the hinterland. It is in this perspective that the first project to obtain submarines from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Pyongyang) was part. There was talk of pocket submarines of the type Yugo (110 tonnes of diving displacement) or coastal submarines of the class Sang-O (370 tonnes of submerged displacement). There was an agreement in 2002 but immediately abandoned. This would be due to both the financial costs inherent in both the purchase and the creation of training, logistical and support infrastructures but also because of Pyongyang's delicate situation on the international scene.

The geostrategic logic in the following years seems to return to the rationalities manifested since 1999, that is to say not to let oneself be left behind by the other nations of South-East Asia equipping themselves with submarines. Since 2006, Burmese officers have boarded one or more Indian submarines for observation courses in the use of these boats at sea. In 2010, according to certain unverified rumors, India provided training on submarines to officers of the Tatmadaw Yay from one of the four submarines of the class Vela (INS Vela (1973 – 2010), INS Vagin (1973 – 2001), INS Vagli (1974 – 2010) and INS Vagsheer (1974 – 1997) or 641 project (Foxtrot in NATO classification). There would then have been talk of purchasing copies of the same type of submarines in Russia.

Naval incident Bangladesh Myanmar 2008 Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Defense Analysis | Used Defense Equipment
The map of the International Maritime Tribunal shows the claims of both sides. The judgment of March 14, 2012 satisfied virtually all Burmese demands. Bangladesh was also disappointed in its claims in its dispute with India.

A new geostrategic fact catalyzed the military opposition between Bangladesh and Burma: the naval incident of 2008. Daewoo International Corporation confirmed the presence of gas in the deposits offshore Myanmar A-1 (2004) and Myanmar A-3 (2006) located in the Burmese exclusive economic zone. The South Korean company prospected at the request of the Myanmar government and concluded a gas sales contract worth 6250 million euros (2009). It was during an exploration campaign in 2008 that the naval incident occurred. A ship of Daewoo International Corporation was prospecting the Burmese exclusive economic zone near the island of Saint-Martin belonging to Bangladesh. The latter country sent four warships claiming that it was the Bangladeshi exclusive economic zone. Burma responded by sending two warships. The affair began on November 2 and ended on the 7th with the withdrawal of the Burmese warships and the South Korean company's exploration ship. But the case was brought by Burma before the International Maritime Tribunal in 2009. Its judgment of March 14, 2012 found Burma right and Bangladesh wrong regarding the delimitation of their exclusive economic zones.

Bangladesh seems to be the driving force behind this reactivation of the Burmese project to obtain a submarine capability and its entry into its decisive phase. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina, declared in January 2013 that her country would acquire a submarine force composed of two future boats. A contract for the acquisition of two submarines transferred by the Navy of the People's Liberation Army (MLG) for the benefit of the Bangladeshi navy is signed during the year 2013. Two submarines Type 035G (i.e. among the 12 boats entered into service between 1990 and 1999) belonging to the Ming class are negotiated for 147,2 million euros (2013), a sum which includes an overhaul in a Chinese shipyard and other services. The good ones Nabajatra and GOODS joyjatra were delivered in 2016 and admitted to active service on March 12, 2017.

It has been reported that Bangladesh plans to build a naval base with the assistance of China at an estimated cost of €1084,57 million (2019). The estimate is given for the construction of the submarine base only but it probably corresponds more to the first constructions of the new naval base itself which will be located on the island of Kutubdia, approximately 220 km from the Bangladeshi island. of Saint Martin (2008 naval incident). Naval base which would include all the necessary facilities, including a jetty, to support the two submarines.

These first Burmese acculturations (1999 – 2010) to the submarine fact would have served in particular to determine the most relevant diplomatic-military “sector” for obtaining an interim submarine capacity with a view to choosing a supplier. for sustainable capacity. A consensus then emerged in Burmese decision-making circles regarding a future transaction involving India and Russia. And Bangladesh is exerting military pressure that does not seem to have been anticipated. The training carried out in 1999 in Pakistan on Agosta 70 continue or resume in 2013 at the Pakistani submariner training center PNS Bahadur.

Vouchers Nabajatra Vouchers Joyjatra 2017 Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Defense Analysis | Used Defense Equipment
GOOD submarines Nabajatra (2017) and GOODS joyjatra (2017) of Type 035G are former submarines transferred by China to Bangladesh. They allow the acquisition of a first submarine capacity for the country. A project which very probably calls for a program of new buildings for which China appears to be the likely supplier.

The commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces, General Min Aung Hlaing (March 30, 2011), is said to have visited the Admiralty shipyards (Saint Petersburg, founded on November 2013, 5 by Peter the Great), in 1704, one of the three Russian shipyards to assemble submarines called Kilo for NATO (projects 877, 877 EKM, 636, 636.1 and 636.3) with Nizhni-Novgorod and Komsomolsk-on-Amur. But the Admiralty shipyards are mainly those which manufactured the submarines of the project 877EKM Indians or class Sindhughosh (10). Discussions have therefore begun for the acquisition of two submarines for the benefit of Myanmar with a first operational capacity hoped for in 2015.

The Burmese project has slipped for two years without receiving the slightest start of execution, apart from the training carried out in Pakistan. General Min Aung Hlaing declared in 2015 that Burma would acquire several submarines within four to five years. In May 2017, Myanmar's Deputy Defense Minister, Major General Myint Nwe, claimed that the Tatmadaw was looking for a submarine, while emphasizing the close relations maintained with theIndian navy and without ever being interested in supplying the boat to China.

The fact that from March 2017 around fifty trainees are taking courses at INS Satavahana, that is to say the training base for submariners of the Indian Navy (Visakhapatnam) and that “mobile training teams » Indians go to Rangoon without any submarine acquisition contract having been signed with any manufacturer, giving a first indication of the origin of the first submarine. However, it was only in March 2019, during a visit by General Min Aung Hlaing to India, that the transfer, with the agreement of Moscow, of a submarine from the Indian navy to the navy was announced. Burmese. A military cooperation agreement between Burma and India was signed on July 31, 2019 during a new visit by General Min Aung Hlaing to India.

3M 54E1 7 Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Defense Analysis | Used Defense Equipment
The subsonic anti-ship missile 3M-54E1 carries a military load of 450 kg and has a range of 220 km. Its possible possession by the Burmese navy with the INS Sindhuvir or any other future units would force Bangladesh and Thailand to reach this level and therefore probably ask China to provide equivalent weaponry.

It ends up being clarified that it will be the INS Sindhuvir (1988 – 2019). It is a submarine that suffered quite a bit during its operational career since it collided with a merchant ship in 2008, was damaged by fire on August 14, 2013 while it was under maintenance and was even stranded on January 17, 2014. The submarine entered “normal overhaul” on July 18, 2017 (see supra : illustrative photograph) and would have been under construction since this date in the shipyard ofHindustan Shipyard Limited from Visakhapatnam. The boat could be delivered as early as December 24, 2019, i.e. Navy Day in Burma. Its admission to active service could be pronounced in April 2020 following a series of exercises carried out in the Bay of Bengal.

INS Sindhuvir measures 72,6 meters long with a hull diameter of 9,9 meters. Its surface displacement is 2325 tonnes for a submerged displacement of approximately 3100 tonnes. It runs up to 10 knots on the surface and reaches 17 knots when diving. With an autonomy of 6000 nautical miles at 7 knots on the surface, 400 nautical miles at 3 knots underwater and can support up to 45 days of operations. Maximum immersion reaches 300 meters when the hull is under age. Armed by a crew of 52 men.

The sonar suite of the building after redesign should be the SMX2 developed by the DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization (India) for the international market. The armament consists of six torpedo tubes with a capacity of 18 torpedoes (including six on the tubes, twelve on racks or a maximum of 24 mines). It is not said whether heavy torpedoes are provided (Type 53-65 ? Varunastra?), same remark regarding anti-ship missiles 3M-54E1 (Club-S) of 220 km equipping the Kilo Indian…

The fact remains that this first Burmese capacity prepares for the future because that is its essential objective. It is therefore expected that formal discussions will begin between Naypyidaw and Moscow for the acquisition of two submarines which will probably be 636.3 project. It would not be surprising that while awaiting the admission to active service of these future submarines, Burma could hope for the delivery of another boat from India, in particular to ensure a continued presence at the sea. Which would allow the training of at least a second crew to begin. And whether the submarines ceded by India are one or two, it would be interesting to observe whether Burma will continue to maintain some at sea to serve as training vessels when the new units are received.

The Burmese choice is a major response to the submarines deployed by Bangladesh. There are almost two generations between the two submarines Type 035G and project 877EKM. The acoustic advantage held by Burma is undeniable while the numerical advantage currently benefits Bangladesh.

Ultimately, it is Thailand which is most concerned about future Burmese submarine operations. There Royal Thai Navy (Kong thap ruea thai) is preparing to face a “new situation” due to the future cruises of the Burmese submarine in the Andaman Sea, between the eponymous Indian archipelago, the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf coasts from Thailand. However, on July 2, 2015, the Royal Thai Navy selected the submarine Type S26T (commercial version of the Yuan class (Type 039A). An order was placed for a first unit of this type at a cost of 331,11 million euros in 2017 after the navy project was approved on April 18 of the same year. The cutting of the first sheet took place on September 4, 2018 in Wuhan (China). An option is included in the contract for the desired acquisition of two other units for which orders are to be confirmed by 2026. But the head of the series would not be delivered until 2023. Burma is therefore three years ahead , which worries Thailand.

Type S26T Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Defense Analysis | Used Defense Equipment
The Royal Thai Navy could benefit from the purchase of three Type S26T submarines. One example has already been ordered and laid down in 2018. These future boats will be equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP), reinforcing their ability to last at sea and therefore the effort necessary to flush them out.

The transfer of the INS Sindhuvir (1988 – 2019) by India would show successful diplomacy Look East Policy (1990). Manmohan Singh, then Indian Prime Minister (2004 – 2014), was in May 2012 the first Indian head of government to make a government visit to Burma in 25 years. Visit which completed a change in Burmese strategic positioning whose naval bases hosted “Chinese naval engineers” between 1988 and 1998. The rapprochement of the 2000s saw India provide its assistance to support the strengthening of Burmese offshore naval capabilities, including a first submarine capacity (2006 – 2019).

The geopolitical issue is however difficult because the Naypyidaw regime is ostracized by the international community, particularly for the conflict opposing its government to the communities grouped under the term "Rohingya", the United States of America having even taken sanctions. India must therefore try to compensate in order to prevent Burma from turning entirely towards China even though it had succeeded in partially detaching this state from Chinese influence, to the point of organizing exercises between the two navies and to cooperate for maritime security in the Bay of Bengal.

This allows New Delhi to rebalance the balance of power in the triangle going from the Bay of Bengal to the Strait of Malacca with the Andaman archipelago as its apex. Having to counter the Pakistani submarine in the Arabian Sea which should gradually be increased from five to eight units by 2030-35, India could not help but be concerned about the increase in the submarine capabilities of the Bangladesh (2) and Thailand (3) by 2026 while the Indian submarine is under pressure to maintain and then increase its format. This transfer would show that India can also be a security provider, although the limits of the exercise appear immediately: it is Russia which is called upon to equip the Burmese navy with new submarines and not the India.

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