Fully fledged air defence system vital to counter Tiger air threat
The air capability of
the LTTE has created yet another panic situation in the country last
week with two Tiger aircrafts flown across Colombo, dropping bombs at
oil storage facility in Kolonnawa and gas storage facility in
Keravalapitiya in the wee hours of last Sunday.
Though, the Tiger Air Wing was not successful in their effort to
create a colossal damage similar to that of the 1995 LTTE attack on
Kolonnawa oil storage facility, the LTTE has been able to create panic
situation in the country. Though, failed to achieve all their objectives
they have achieved much of their objectives through the air raids since
their first air raid at Katunayaka Air Force Base.
The operations at the Katunayaka International Airport was the first
to be affected from this situation with Government taking a decision to
confine the operational hours of the Bandaranaike International Airport
at Katunayake to between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily from May 10.
The Government has taken this decision as a precautionary measure to
minimise inconvenience caused to airline operators and passengers due to
any impending air attacks by the LTTE.
This decision was reached at a discussion between President Mahinda
Rajapaksa and airline industry representatives at Temple Trees,
following requests made by airlines based on their operational
Though this appears to be a set back on the part of the Government,
in the face of LTTE challenge, it makes greater sense under
circumstances if any commercial flight or foreigner at the Katunayake
international airport is hit by any LTTE attack as it happened in the
Threat of LTTE Air Wing
The decision taken by the Government cause loses to the Government
and the aviation industry, the damage would be much higher, if the
Katunayake airport come under the threat of LTTE Air Wing though they
cannot make huge damage to the airport using their light aircrafts and
the bombs made of ball bearings.
In the same manner the decision by the Government also gives greater
deal of free hand for the Security Forces to retaliate to any air attack
by the LTTE by keeping the air free for their operations.
However, the Security Forces failure to effectively detect the Tiger
aircraft and their failure to destroy them has now become a major issue
among the public. They too are now raising questions about the way the
Air Defence Systems has reacted to the situation creating panic among
It is natural for the common masses to raise questions of this
nature, since the subject is at primary stage for the Security Forces
too since they too are undergoing the process for the first time after
awaiting to acquire knowledge on Air Defence System for quite a long
As suggested by some quarters of society, having Radar facilities
with the Air Force is not enough to counter any air threat since the
effective functioning of a Air Defence System based on four broad
principles, detection, identification, threat evaluation and the weapon
The detection part of the AD system begins with the establishment of
mechanisms to render early warning of a potential enemy aircraft.
This is primarily achieved either through Electronic (radar), Visual
Observation or Intelligence and currently radar is the most favoured
option selected by the people across the world.
When Katunayake Air Force Base came under first LTTE attack on March
26, the Radar system at Katunayaka could not detect it due to the
pattern the radar system functioned there. But, the detection part was
done by the STF personnel on duty through visual observation, though it
was not taken seriously by the relevant authorities.
When LTTE made an attempt to launch an attack on the Palaly Air Base,
there was a small lapse from the part of the Security Forces in the
identification process. Having detected a suspicious target, identifying
it as a friend or foe becomes very vital before executing the subsequent
function of an Air Defence System.
Command Centre to decide
In this regard, collating the details of scheduled and authorized
flights with the information of observed targets is swiftly done by
staff at Command Centre to arrive at a decision accurately with no
Therefore, identification of a likely enemy aircraft at a point as
far away as possible from a probable target would be advantageous in
securing an elongated reaction time.
At Palaly the presence of the Air Force Beach Craft made the task of
the Security Forces little difficult and such delays in the process of
identifying the target as a friend or foe, gives enemy enough time to do
the damage and escape.
The Tigers make use of tactics to avert the identification by flying
during the night time and flying at tree top level so that the people in
the ground cannot observe the aircraft properly.
In the same way any errors made in the process of identification too
will bring disastrous consequences, if any commercial aircraft being
identified as a enemy aircraft and guns activated to destroy the
aircraft identifying it as an enemy. Though the process is similar to
the process of identifying enemy ships in the sea, the process should be
completed with the shortest possible time since it is difficult to keep
an aircraft under observation for quite a long period.
Therefore, it has become complex process for the Security Forces to
identify and destroy the enemy aircraft, which had operated only during
night time, mostly using the moon light as their guide.
Since their operations are done during night time, it has become an
extremely difficult task to identify the enemy aircraft by its colour or
by any other sign.
Therefore, it will take time for the Security Forces and the common
masses to identify the LTTE aircraft as they have not observed them
during day time. Threat Evaluation, is the next principle that should be
applied immediately after the identification process.
Immediately after the identifying, an evaluation of the imminent
threat needs to be done with lighting speed to ascertain the size, the
probable payload and the speed of the target to facilitate the
instantaneous assignment of weapons. (either interceptors, Missiles or
Air Defence Guns) Many people raise questions as to why SLAF fighter
craft could not destroy the Tiger aircraft once they are in the air.
Though it appears to be a simple process, since fighter aircraft
which have been used for ground attacks, it would bring disastrous
consequence if these aircraft are not fitted with proper weapons system
to destroy the enemy aircraft.
Therefore, it is impractical to use MI 27 or Kfirs for the task which
are being used to drop bombs in the ground. But if they can detect the
exact place, where the Tiger aircraft are landing, they can take precise
bombing to destroy the enemy aircraft.
Therefore, during the decisive phase of weapon assignment, the weapon
that can inflict the severest destruction to the target will be opted
An enemy aircraft too close to a vulnerable area would immediately be
subjected to 'Missile Fire' depending on their deployment, failing
which, the Point Defence Mechanism , the Anti Aircraft Artillery would
System to counter enemy
If proper weapon system are not fixed to counter enemy air attack,
the Security Forces will have to react to the situation with the
available resources with them. Then, there will be only fifty, fifty
chance on destroying the enemy aircraft and greater risk factor will be
involved if they do not use matching weapons.
Therefore, under these circumstances, it is obvious that maintaining
an Air Defence System is not an easy task on the part of the Security
Forces since they have to play a bigger role and also share a greater
responsibility when fulfilling their task.
Apart from this a responsible Control and Reporting Organisation (Air
Defence Radar System), a Radar Guided Air Defence Gun System/Anti
Aircraft Artillery Guns (AAA) and Surface to Air Guided Missile System
are also integral parts of a fully fledged National Air Defence System.
Therefore, the formation of National Air Defence System cannot be
done overnight since it takes sometimes years to form required
organisations and to purchase Radar systems and also Weapon Systems, the
task before the Government and the Security Forces is giant since the
process had passed only the initial stage since December 2005.
The comrades like present Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal
Donald Perera should be commended for their continuous effort to bring
the process of establishing National Air Defence System at least to this
stage by forwarding facts to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga when she took over the Ministry of Defence from the UNF
Under these circumstances the Government has to bear the criticism
even from the people who had laid foundation for the situation allowing
LTTE to acquire aircraft whilst taking no step to augment national
security in the face of the developing air capabilities of the LTTE.
Therefore, the better option available with the Government is to take
precautionary action by alerting the public and also taking measures to
prevent Tiger aircraft arriving at places of vital security
installations and economic centres.
Destroy air capabilities
The other option available with the Government is to physically move
to the LTTE held areas and destroy their air capabilities since it has
the right as a sovereign state to eliminate elements that is threatening
to the sovereignty of the state.
For such effort the Government needs the backing of the entire nation
with no political parties to drag the feet of the Government on its
march towards reaching that goal. The support of the international
community too vital in this endeavour, since it is a must on their part
to stop fund raising for their terror tactics.
The entire global community should support such effort by the
Government as it is an essential part in the global effort to eradicate
The threat posed by the LTTE to the global terrorism was well exposed
in the US Report on Global Terrorism as it said "Many LTTE innovations,
such as explosive belts, vests, and bras, using female suicide bombers,
and waterborne suicide attacks against ships, have been copied by other
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the international community to
intensify their operations to curb terror acts of the LTTE, by way of
curbing their fund raising activities and arms smuggling activities
since the "LTTE financed itself with contributions from the Tamil
Diaspora in North America, Europe, and Australia, and by imposing local
"taxes" on businesses operating in the areas of Sri Lanka under its
control" to the US report on global terrorism.
The report also states "Using this money, LTTE weapons were purchased
on the international black market or captured from the Sri Lankan Army".
Under these circumstances any effort by any Lobby to relax their
position on the LTTE or to get their Government to exert pressure on the
Sri Lankan state to relax its position on the LTTE subjected to total
As stated by Dr. Howells, the Minister of Middle East, during the
debate on Sri Lanka in House of Commons in UK, that he was very much
averse to recognising the legitimacy of suicide bombers, murderers,
torturers and rapists. "As I tried to explain earlier, there is no
silver bullet that is going to sort everything out.
If we thought that recognition would take matters forward, we would
certainly be prepared to consider it very seriously I give my Hon.
Friend that undertaking" Dr. Howells told when John McDonnell of Labour
Party asked whether the UK Government is giving recognition to the LTTE.