Rebel drones target junta powerbase in Myanmar’s capital, shadow govt says

Shar Htoo Waw claimed to attack the military headquarters, an air base and the junta chief’s home.
By RFA Burmese
2024.04.04
Rebel drones target junta powerbase in Myanmar’s capital, shadow govt says The anti-junta drone squad Kloud Team says it used these fixed-wing drones to attack several junta locations in Myanmar on April 4, 2024.
Kloud Team via Facebook

Rebel groups targeted the junta’s military headquarters and air base in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw with 29 drones on Thursday in a rare attack on the military regime’s stronghold, according to the shadow National Unity Government, or NUG.

Anti-junta armed groups aligned with the NUG are increasingly turning to low-cost drones in a bid to level the playing field in their conflict with the military, which seized power in a February 2021 coup d’etat. 

The military regularly conducts airstrikes with fighter jets and uses heavy artillery to target rebel positions, often with deadly consequences for civilians.

The NUG’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that at around 9 a.m. on Thursday, the anti-junta Shar Htoo Waw’s Kloud Drone Team and a unit of the People’s Defense Force, or PDF, jointly attacked Naypyidaw’s military headquarters with 16 “kamikaze” drones, designed to carry explosives and detonate on impact.

Simultaneously, the ministry said, Shar Htoo Waw’s Lethal Prop Weapon Team and another PDF unit attacked the Aye Lar Airbase with 13 of the same drones. Aye Lar Airbase is used by both military and commercial aircraft.

The NUG – made up of former civilian government leaders ousted in the coup – said preliminary reports indicated “there were casualties,” without specifying further.

Rudimentary drones

In a statement, Shar Htoo Waw’s Kloud Drone Team said it carried out the attacks in collaboration with the anti-junta Power of Ababil group and Regiment 3502’s Orion Drone Team of the PDF in Bago region’s Taungoo city.

It said the military headquarters, Aye Lar Airbase and junta chief Senior Gen.l Min Aung Hlaing’s residence were its targets.

The statement, posted to Facebook, included photos of what it said were the drones used in the attacks. 

The anti-junta drone squad Kloud Team prepares drones for the attack on junta locations in Myanmar on April 4, 2024. (Kloud Team via Facebook)
The anti-junta drone squad Kloud Team prepares drones for the attack on junta locations in Myanmar on April 4, 2024. (Kloud Team via Facebook)

The fixed-wing drones in the images appear relatively basic, with small motorized propellers on each wing, hand painted camouflage, and rudimentary aerodynamics. In one picture, the drones have small metallic boxes atop their fuselages as they sit, lined up on the banks of a small tributary.

The Mizzima news agency cited an anonymous PDF representative in a report as saying that the attacks were carried out “according to the instructions of the Special Operations Department of the [NUG] Ministry of Defense.”

Junta claims it shot down drones

The junta said in a statement posted to its information ministry’s official Telegram channel that its air defenses had shot down four “fixed-wings” flying east of Naypyidaw International Airport and three which were intercepted in the southeast of Zeyar Thiri township.

Junta authorities display drones that they say were shot down during the attacks in Myanmar on April 4, 2024. (Myanmar Digital News)
Junta authorities display drones that they say were shot down during the attacks in Myanmar on April 4, 2024. (Myanmar Digital News)

The junta said its forces were able to seize 13 drones, four of which were later destroyed because they were carrying explosive devices.

Photos included in the post show at least nine damaged drones that appear similar to those included in the Kloud Team’s statement. One photo shows a destroyed drone with electronic wiring exposed.

The junta statement claimed that there were no casualties or damage to buildings resulting from the attack. It made no mention of the Kloud Team’s claim that it had targeted Ming Aung Hlaing’s house.

Failure to reach targets

Residents living near the military headquarters and Aye Lar Airbase told RFA Burmese that they were unaware of the attacks. They said they heard no explosions or any noticeable increase in security around the facilities.

News outlet Myanmar Now quoted a civilian witness to the attack as saying that the drones were unable to reach their intended targets and had “landed at the edge of the airport runway.”

Its report cited residents as saying that Naypyidaw International Airport was temporarily closed after the attacks.

Myanmar Now said that Kloud Team’s Lethal Props Squad used drones to drop bombs on Aye Lar Airbase in September.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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