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Lankan air force lacks night operations capability

The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) has a fair sized fleet of Kfir and MIG 27 jet fighter bombers and MI-24 choppers, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Apr 29, 2007 18:35 IST

The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) has a fair sized fleet of Kfir and MIG 27 jet fighter bombers and MI-24 choppers. The LTTE has only a single digit force of propeller driven Czech designed and locally assembled Zlin Z-142s.

Yet, the fledgling Flying Tigers have been able to infiltrate hundreds of kilometres of government-administered territory, attack key military and strategic targets, and get back to base unscathed.

Reason? "The SLAF lacks night operational capability,"" say defence experts.

The LTTE is aware of this and has staged its three attacks so far, only at night.

"SLAF aircraft did take off to intercept the intruders, but they could not spot them because it was too dark," said an expert who wished to remain anonymous.

The SLAF needs to get Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and aircraft capable of defending the skies at night.

The SLAF had been told to NVGs, among other suitable equipment, way back in 2002 by a team of the US Pacific Command.

But no action had been taken till date, The Sunday Times said.

According to the paper, the US team's report could not be traced and it was left to a former minister in the 2002 government, Milinda Moragoda, to come to the Rajapaksa government's rescue and give the Ministry of Defence a copy of the report.

The US Pacific Command had said that the SLAF should stop purchasing expensive new aircraft like MIG 27s, and spend its limited resources on keeping the existing fleet in working order by investing in spare parts and upgrading.

The Kfirs could be upgraded and the MI-17s and 24s could be better armed, the American team said.

First Published: Apr 29, 2007 18:34 IST