In just about 10 years, the Myanmar Navy from an unknown force in Southeast Asia has surprised the whole region with its growth rate, both in quantity and quality.
Since the early 2000s, Myanmar has been looking to buy a fleet of submarines, mainly to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. However, Myanmar did not have many options because of the arms embargo. They could only choose between Russia and China. These two countries are Myanmar’s first and second largest arms suppliers.
On 24 December 2021 Myanmar commissioned a former People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 35B Ming-class submarine, named “UMS Minye Kyaw Htin”. It is the second submarine to join the Myanmar Navy fleet following the commissioning of former Indian Navy Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuvir in 2020. The new submarines have significantly upgraded the position of the Myanmar Navy in the region.
Type 035B boats are the most modern of the Chinese Type 035 family and were completed from 2000 to 2003, featuring modifications to somewhat set the boats apart from their original design. The revisions allow the launching of cruise missiles from the torpedo tubes, giving these vessels good “reach” against inland targets and another viable weapon to bring to bear against surface-dwelling naval targets.
Power is from a conventional diesel-electric arrangement allowing the boat to reach submerged speeds of 18 knots under full power down to a depth of 980 feet. Dimensions include a length of 249 feet, a beam of 25 feet, and a draught of 17 feet. Displacement is 2,110 tonnes when submerged.
The Type 035B variant which just joined the Myanmar fleet is equipped to fire missiles from its torpedo tubes: 6 x Bow-facing torpedo tubes and 2 x Stern-facing launch tubes. Conning tower and certain portion of hull was redesigned, with new structure similar to that of Type 039 submarine. The two boats give the Myanmar Navy considerable tactical advantages when appropriately utilized alongside a surface fighting force that includes frigates, corvettes, and missile boats.
Before Myanmar, Bangladesh also purchased two Type 035G submarines worth $203 million from China and were delivered in 2016. However, the Type 035G is not capable of launching missiles.