SLAF celebrates golden jubilee with air show

[TamilNet, Friday, 09 March 2001, 12:33 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Air Force celebrated its golden jubilee in Colombo Friday with a show by more than fifty aircraft, including a group from the Indian Air Force and Colomboís recently acquired Mig 27s and Israeli built Kfirs . A seventy-member team from the Indian Air Force was a special feature of the air display.

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The main ceremony of the celebrations was held this morning at Ratmalana Air Force base on the southern outskirts of Colombo. The SLAF was able rehearse and fly most of its combat aircraft and helicopters for the show because of the prolonged ceasefire in the northern and eastern parts of the island, military sources said.

Alms giving and special prayers were held at the Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy earlier in the day, attended by SLAF chief Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakod to invoke the blessing of the Triple Gem upon the air force.

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The IAF's 'Akash Ganga' by Indian para troopers and 'Surya Kiran' stole the show. Several SLAF personnel both male and female fainted during the event due to excessive heat and exhaustion sources said.
Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga addressed the inauguration of the golden jubilee celebrations in Colombo. Addressing the function, she said that throughout the last five decades the SL Air Force has performed its primary task of safeguarding the country's airspace and thereby the sovereignty and territorial integrity and that her government has now acquired new technology and aircraft with a view to modernizing the force.

A special event at the show was a display by the Indian Air Force's aerobatics squad.

The SLAF remained a ceremonial air force with a limited logistical role until the mid eighties. Since then it began to acquire Bell helicopters and Brazilian Sia Machetti ground attack craft mainly for a counter insurgency role in operations against the Liberation Tigers. However, the escalation of the war to conventional levels and increasing limitations faced by the infantryís ground offensive capabilities have led to an growing dependence on tactical airpower. The Sri Lanka armyís debacles in the north last year impelled Colombo on a massive buying spree to boost its airpower.

The SLAF, despite its impressive acquisitions recently, says that it is in want of more aircraft and technology to keep the supply line to Jaffna open while sustaining an effective tactical role if there were to be another round of conventional scale fighting with the Liberation Tigers in the north in addition to providing timely support for counter insurgency operations in the eastern province.

 

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