Taming The Tigers – Sri Lanka Airforce’s finest hour

SLAF squadrons involved in Eelam War 4

During the years of ‘peace’, from 2002 to 2005, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) completely overhauled its operational doctrine, weapons systems, training and combat effectiveness, and despite some bitter setbacks made a decisive contribution to the final defeat of the hitherto-invincible LTTE, who for over 30 years had fought to carve out a separate state in Sri Lanka. How did this happen?

In June 2009, Alan Warne of Air Forces Monthly (AFM) magazine reported on how the SLAF had evolved to meet and overcome the challenges of joint operations to defeat the LTTE, and in the process had created and integrated a combat capable fleet consisting of Western, Soviet and Chinese aircraft and weapons systems including Mi-24s, MiG-27s, Blue Horizon UAVs, Kfirs, Chengdu F7s and An-32s.

If you hadn’t managed to get a copy of the June 2009 issue of AFM, read the entire article here, as PDF files. And don’t forget, support AFM magazine and buy their latest issue.

Part 1 (right-click to download to your computer)

Part 2 (right-click to download to your computer)

Part 3 (right-click to download to your computer)

Part 4 (right-click to download to your computer)

Part 5 (right-click to download to your computer)

How the SLAF got its act together

Air Vice Marshal Kolitha Gunatileke explains: “Up until 2002, the four or five Army Divisions would attack the LTTE from different directions without any real dialogue involving the SLAF. Today they’re attacking in one area, we are then inserting SLAF regiment to hold on to it before the Army move on towards another area and hit that.

“During 2002-05 we concentrated on joint operations so when war did break out again in 2006, each service knew what was expected of them. The jet squadrons trained on their targeting while the helicopters were upgraded with better self-protection systems.

In 2002-05 we carried out a lot of training to master our equipment, this involved more recce work with UAVs and Beechcraft 200s. The LTTE exposed themselves during those years –and we were able to determine all their important sites right under their noses! They complained that we were flying over their territory but the air space is ours! When war did break out we knew exactly where everything was including their ammunition dumps.

So we sent it MiG-27s, Kfirs and Mi-24/35s with the UAVs providing much of the recce. We had purchased Kfir C7s in 2000/01 that had better Weapons Delivery Navigation System (WSNS). The Kfir missions are more targeted – with their more accurate systems we can use them for pin-point bombings on lorries, cars, building etc. The MiG-27s are great for big blasts in big areas. The Blue Horizon UAVs are being very effective and can stay up for 4-6 hours…. “

Training the USAF (no, not a typo)

One pilot .. flew a massive 119 hours that month (January 2009) because of a lack of available personnel. When you consider that much of this was done without night vision goggles (NVGs) you get an idea of how skilled the SLAF pilots are.

The SLAF do not use NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) in any of their aircraft, much to the dismay of US personnel who were recently in Sri Lanka for training purposes – not to train the Sri Lankans but to be trained by the Sri Lankans. According to one SLAF helicopter pilot: “One US pilot was explaining that for some operations it would be best to operate at 3,5000 feet with your night vision goggles on. But when we told him ‘we don’t use night vision goggles and we fly at 50 feet in that role’ he responded with ‘you guys are mad – I can’t teach you anything’. So we ended up showing him our methods which we use in our war’.

MiG-27 making a big blast over a big area” – this combat video shows a SLAF MiG-27 on a very low level mission, dropping parachute-retarded bombs.

The future for the SLAF?

Patrolling the seas, running commercial tourist flights, fashion shows, enthusing kids to dream about flying and more fashion shows.

Peacetime duties for the SLAF

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