An Aussie's travels to air shows, aviation museums and more around the world
Burmese Spitfire, Seafire & Sea Fury
Rest assured, this is not a mythical tale of pristine World War Two era Supermarine Spitfire fighters preserved in shipping crates buried beneath an airfield somewhere in modern day Myanmar (formerly Burma). No, this is about a roughly preserved Spitfire, Seafire and Hawker Sea Fury, formerly operated by the Burmese Air Force sitting out in the open in the heat at the Defence Services Museum in the modern capital of Nay Pyi Taw in central Myanmar!
Nay Pyi Taw is a city that was built in secret by the Army government and officially founded in 2005. Government employees were apparently given 3 months to move with all departments from the old capital of Yangon (although most foreign embassies and consulates are still likely to be found in Yangon). This vast and sparsely populated city (imagine 16 lane highways with very few cars on them) was not open to foreigners until 2011! The Defence Services Museum is equally large and you are likely to see more military personnel and museum staff there than actual visitors! That was the case at least during my worthwhile visit there in February 2018.
Like the government departments that were once in Yangon, so to was the Myanmar Defence Services Museum. Today that site is closed off and the museum has basically been destroyed. All that I could see there past the fence, was a small structure and a Myanmar Air Force monument when I was in Yangon.
At the new Myanmar Defence Services Museum you will find a camouflaged Burmese Air Force Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX fighter-bomber (UB 421) that is sitting out in the hot concrete at the museum airpark. 30 former Israeli Air Force Mk.IX examples were purchased in the 1950’s but only 29 ultimately arrived in Burma between 1954 and 1955 (one force landed in Iraq in 1954 and was impounded, thus never making it to Burma – it was replaced. Another crash landed pre-delivery in Israel and was not replaced). 6 were written off in landing accidents (that tricky undercarriage!) and the type was retired in the late 1950’s.
In addition you can also see a Burmese Air Force Supermarine Seafire Mk.XV painted silver (UB 409). The Seafire was a naval variant of the Spitfire. 20 former Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft were delivered to Burma in 1952.
Following months of test flights and training, the Seafire fighters were allocated to No. 1 Squadron and used in combat in Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations in northern Burma. They were retired from service in 1957/58, when replaced by Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 fighter bombers (also ex-FAA).
A Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 (UB 471) is also on display at the Defence Services Museum. 18 former Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft were refurbished and delivered to the Burmese Air Force between December 1957 and May 1958. 3 aircraft were converted to TT.11 target tug aircraft and the last Burmese Sea Fury soldiered on until 1968.
Like the Seafire, they were used in combat in Counter Insurgency (COIN) and air defence operations in northern Burma, with one shot down (UB 466) in an interception of a rebel controlled 4 engine bomber aircraft on February 15th, 1961 – it was believed to be an unmarked Republic of China Air Force (Taiwanese) Consolidated PB4Y Privateer, on a supply run to Chinese Kuomintang forces (KMT) fighting in northern Burma near the Thai border. The bomber was also shot down in the incident by other Sea Fury fighters. Within the vast museum buildings you will find a memorial with wreckage of the Sea Fury on display.
As you can see in my photos there are numerous aircraft within the air park of the museum, from fighters to helicopters, trainers and transport aircraft. The surrounding mountain scenery and the uniqueness of visiting Nay Pyi Taw itself, make this an interesting and worthwhile place to visit.