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High-impact 'drop bombs' retake the sky from Myanmar junta

This photo shows members of the Mandalay People Defense Forces (MDY-PDF) releasing a drone near the frontline amid clashes with Myanmar's military in northern Shan State. — AFP file photo
This photo shows members of the Mandalay People Defense Forces (MDY-PDF) releasing a drone near the frontline amid clashes with Myanmar's military in northern Shan State. — AFP file photo
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NAMHSAN: A squad of Myanmar pro-democracy fighters works quickly to ready drones for an attack on a nearby military base, the latest target in a wave of aerial assaults that has helped turn the war against the junta.


The team stood back as one contraption named "Bomber VIII" carrying a new six-kilogram explosive soared over a line of trees.


"The military position is four kilometres away from us," said Soe Thuya Zaw, the drone unit's leader, as he punched coordinates into a map on his phone.


Minutes later the drones had reached the position and at the push of a button released their "drop bombs" over the target.


The team counted two blasts. One had failed to detonate, but all three drones returned safely.


Opponents of Myanmar's junta use such attacks to challenge the military's dominance of the skies through its jets and helicopters.


"While military pilots are flying fighter jets themselves and attacking us, we are also trying to conquer the sky of the battlefield," said Soe Thuya Zaw of the "Mandalay People's Defence Force".


Soe Thuya Zaw said his group's drone operations were entirely "the creations of our generation Z".


Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has admitted the drone barrages have forced the military to retreat from its positions.


An alliance of a minority armed groups had used 25,000 "drop bombs" in their recent offensive, he said last month.


At one workshop hidden in the hills of northern Shan state diesel generators splutter alongside power tools, coils of wire and stacks of plastic piping.


Gunpowder cooks in a pan over a log fire. It will later be poured into plastic shells that will be filled in with deadly shrapnel.


The Mandalay PDF drone unit was started by two engineering students and now has more than 50 members, said Soe Thuya Zaw.


The group uses 3D printers to produce prototype "drop bomb" shells which are filled with non-explosive materials and launched from drones in test missions.


In recent weeks the Mandalay PDF has launched hundreds of "drop bombs" in fighting in Shan state, said Soe Thuya Zaw.


He added his unit has given training to a powerful alliance of ethnic minority armed groups in the region and carried out joint operations with them during a recent offensive.


Analysts say it is the biggest challenge the military has faced since it seized power in 2021. — AFP


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