SLAF helicopter crashes
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 25 November 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A Sri Lankan Air Force helicopter crashed today, killing 4 crewmen, according to military officials. The aircraft came down close Puliyankulam, where Liberation Tigers and Sri Lankan troops are fighting for control of a strategic highway they said.
It was not clear if the Bell 212 had been shot down or developed a fault. The LTTE shot down a SLAF Mi-24 gunship earlier this month using a missile, according to military officials.
The SLAF deploy the US-made Bell 212s in light utility roles. Though lightly armed and armoured, they are used to evacuate casualties and transport VIPs, and are generally considered to be reliable.
However, another Bell helicopter crash landed in no man's land, also near Vavuniya last year, whilst carrying the Sri Lankan Deputy Defence minister and the Sri Lankan army commander.
Both men were picked up by another SLAF helicopter, but the aircraft was destroyed by the Liberation Tigers.
In the past two years the SLAF have lost up to two dozen aircraft of all types, both due to mechanical failure and LTTE anti-aircraft fire.