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Has LTTE?s 'air force' been crippled?

The series of air raids on the LTTE-held Wanni was meant to cripple their air force, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2006 12:12 IST

The series of air raids on the LTTE-held northern territory of Wanni on Friday was clearly meant to cripple the rebels' fledgling air force. But it is not clear if the mission succeeded.

Kfir fighter bombers of the Sri Lankan Air Force targeted the Iramandu air field, the LTTE's only airfield. But it is not certain if the airfield was damaged.

The Sri Lankan military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said that he had no information other than that the Iranamadu airfield was targeted. Independent expert also said much the same thing.

But the Daily Mirror reported that damage to the airfield was confirmed by an UAV, which was sent to reconnoitre the area.

The LTTE's bid to build an air force has been viewed with alarm by Sri Lanka, as well as India.

The Scandinavian Truce Monitors have said that any flying by the LTTE, whether civil or military, will be a violation of Sri Lankan and international law.

Available intelligence is that the LTTE has two small twin-engined aircraft put together by its own engineers trained by the Late Col Shankar, a former British-trained aeronautical engineer.

It is feared that the LTTE could use small aircraft for suicide missions with devastating effect. An air force will give the LTTE a long distance capability, which it now lacks.

However, the LTTE's air capability is still shrouded in mystery.

The Nordic truce monitors have tried to inspect the airfield and the aircraft in it, to check out the Sri Lankan government's complaints, but to no avail.

Till date, the LTTE has not allowed any inspection, much to the chagrin of the monitors.

The LTTE has never asserted or denied the existence of a fledgling air force.

All it has been saying is that it is no longer a rag tag group of guerillas, but is a conventional armed force, with all the necessary components, namely, a land army, with infantry and artillery units, and a navy.