Feature Article

Massive military expansion ‘without publicity’

[TamilNet, Sunday, 01 May 2005, 15:08 GMT]
Sri Lanka is to buy several powerful warships from Britain, Serbia and Uruguay, the Sunday Times reported this week. From Britain, the SLN is keen to buy warships to support major amphibious assaults on coastal targets. The SLN is also to buy two nearly 100-metre long Russian built missile frigates from Serbia and five fast gunboats from Uruguay. “What is known quite clearly is that millions of dollars are to be spent for military procurements,” the Sunday Times’ defence correspondent, Iqbal Athas, writes. “Without the glare of publicity, behind-the-scene manoeuvres to secure some big deals are under way.”

Galahad
“The three [large] vessels - one from UK and two from Serbia - alone will cost the Navy, if it receives Government approval, a staggering Rs 6.7 billion. … In addition, the five Vigilante Fast Patrol Boats from Uruguay, new radar, a variety of other under water systems etc. is said to cost the Navy several million dollars or billions of rupees more,” the paper said.

“Besides the Navy, the Ministry of Defence has floated a tender from among local manufacturers to procure an estimated Rs 1.2 billion worth of Body Armour, Flack Jacket and Ballistic Helmets… for use by the three armed forces,” the Sunday Times reported.

The Sunday Times learnt the SLN has shown interest in procuring Logistic Landing Ships (LSL) from Britiain’s Royal Auxiliary Fleet, a civilian manned flotilla owned by the British Ministry of Defence. The Auxiliary Fleet supplies the Royal Navy at sea, with food, fuel, ammunition and spares to conduct operations away from their home ports.

“The [SLN] has shown interest in procuring at least one LSL, Sir Gallahad,” the Sunday Times said.

The SLN has also shown interest in an Off Shore Patrol Vessel from Britain, said to cost a million Sterling Pounds or over Rs 180 million. However, its purchase hinges on the LSL, the paper said.

“The Navy is also keen to purchase two nearly 100-metre long Russian built missile frigates from Serbia,” the Sunday Times said. These are fitted with Surface-to-Surface and Surface-to-Air missiles and Anti-submarine rockets, it added.

Each LSL is more than one and half the size of a football field in length. The Sir Galahad is capable of carrying 16 battle tanks or 33 eight-ton vehicles and 62 Land Rovers on one deck. It can carry 33 eight-ton vehicles and 74 Land Rovers and 40 twenty-foot containers on another deck. The warship also has provision to be able to carry another carry 27 eight ton vehicles, 59 Land Rovers and 30 twenty-foot containers.

“The principal role of the Landing Ship Logistic is to support amphibious operations by landing troops, tanks, vehicles and other heavy equipment in port or to any suitable shore,” the Sunday Times reported. “To accomplish this task the ships can discharge their cargo by a variety of methods including Helicopter, Mexiflote Pontoons and Landing Craft. It can also discharge vehicles and personnel directly to a suitable beach through the bow doors besides carrying Main Battle Tanks, Land Rovers and containers on board. They are also equipped to conduct helicopter operations.”

Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri met with Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (Army), Air Marshal Donald Perera (Air Force) and senior officers of the three services met recently to formulate a formulate a Five Year Procurement Plan, the paper said.

During the Sri Lanka New Year season Vice Admiral Sandagiri led a high-powered Navy delegation to Britain to inspect surplus assets of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).

Weeks earlier, an RFA team had arrived in Colombo to make a presentation and to offer Sri Lanka three LSLs which are for sale.

Late last year, a four man SLN team led by Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera visited the Naval Overhaul Depot "Sara Kovacevic" in Tivat, Serbia and had detailed discussions on the missile-armed frigates. The Navy is keen to puechase the vessels, though it would have to incur large amounts of money to maintain them, the Sunday Times said.

The same SLN team that visited Serbia also went to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, to discuss the purchase of three Vigilante Class Fast Patrol Boats constructed in 1980 in France and commissioned in the Uruguay Navy in 1981.

 

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