Key spy plane amongst SLAF’s $40m losses - reports

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 02:17 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Air Force lost over $40m dollars worth of aircraft and equipment in the Tamil Tiger ground and air attack Monday, international press reports quoting Sri Lankan officials said. Amongst the losses was a specialized surveillance aircraft ordered by the UNP government just before its peace talks with the LTTE, the reports said.

Raytheon Beechcraft
Raytheon Beechcraft with distinctive underbelly radome


Twenty one soldiers from the LTTE’s elite ‘Black Tiger’ regiment stormed the SLAF airbase in Anuradhapuram in the early hours of Monday. The fighting continued for several hours after the attackers took control of key sections of the base.

The Tigers were supported by at least two aircraft of the Tamileelam Air Force (TAF) which bombed the airbase shortly after the attack began at 3a.m.

Citing the official government statements of two Mi-24 helicopter gunships damaged and one Bell 212 gunship crash landing, the British newspaper, ‘The Telegraph’ also quoted ‘well-placed sources in Colombo’ as saying the damage was on a far greater scale than had been admitted.

The LTTE attack had destroyed military planes and equipment worth more than £20 ($40m) million, the paper reported Tuesday.

“Among the planes allegedly damaged or destroyed was a Beechcraft surveillance plane worth £14 million, two Mi17 helicopters, two Mi24 helicopters, three unmanned aerial vehicles, a K-8 jet and eight PD6 propeller trainer aircraft,” the paper reported.

Earlier, press reports also quoted Sri Lanka’s best known defence correspondent, Iqbal Athas as saying the destruction of the propeller driven naval reconnaissance aircraft had “crippled” the Sri Lanka Navy's deep sea operations.

12 to 18 aircraft might have been damaged or destroyed, Athas told the Hindustan Times Monday.

The Beechcraft 200 HISAR surveillance aircraft is said to be equipped with a Hughes synthetic aperture radar system which the manufacturer, Raytheon, says can track low flying aircraft in addition to ground and sea targets.

In July 2002 Raytheon reported it had won a 10 million dollar plus order from an 'unspecified South Asian customer' to supply one of these surveillance aircraft.

Under that contract, Raytheon was to provide one Beech King Air 200 turboprop aircraft, a HISAR radar system, ground station, spares, training and technical support.

Raytheon had, at the time, only supplied 22 such aircraft.

The aircraft was delivered in late 2002 to the then United National Party (UNP) government, which was engaged in Norwegian facilitated peace negotiations with the LTTE.

Since then the Beechcraft has often been spotted patrolling over LTTE controlled Vanni, amongst other areas, earning itself the apt local nickname ‘Vandu’ (Bug or Beetle).


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