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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > Tamil Armed Resistance > Reports of Armed Conflict > Fully fledged air defence system vital to counter Tiger air threat

Reports on Armed Conflict in Tamil Eelam

Fully fledged air defence system vital to counter Tiger air threat
says Sri Lanka State Controlled Sunday Observer

6 February 2007

The air capability of the LTTE has created yet another panic situation in the country last week with two Tiger aircrafts flown across Colombo, dropping bombs at oil storage facility in Kolonnawa and gas storage facility in Keravalapitiya in the wee hours of last Sunday.

Though, the Tiger Air Wing was not successful in their effort to create a colossal damage similar to that of the 1995 LTTE attack on Kolonnawa oil storage facility, the LTTE has been able to create panic situation in the country. Though, failed to achieve all their objectives they have achieved much of their objectives through the air raids since their first air raid at Katunayaka Air Force Base.

The operations at the Katunayaka International Airport was the first to be affected from this situation with Government taking a decision to confine the operational hours of the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake to between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily from May 10.

The Government has taken this decision as a precautionary measure to minimise inconvenience caused to airline operators and passengers due to any impending air attacks by the LTTE.

This decision was reached at a discussion between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and airline industry representatives at Temple Trees, following requests made by airlines based on their operational considerations.

Though this appears to be a set back on the part of the Government, in the face of LTTE challenge, it makes greater sense under circumstances if any commercial flight or foreigner at the Katunayake international airport is hit by any LTTE attack as it happened in the year 2001.

Threat of LTTE Air Wing

The decision taken by the Government cause loses to the Government and the aviation industry, the damage would be much higher, if the Katunayake airport come under the threat of LTTE Air Wing though they cannot make huge damage to the airport using their light aircrafts and the bombs made of ball bearings.

In the same manner the decision by the Government also gives greater deal of free hand for the Security Forces to retaliate to any air attack by the LTTE by keeping the air free for their operations.

However, the Security Forces failure to effectively detect the Tiger aircraft and their failure to destroy them has now become a major issue among the public. They too are now raising questions about the way the Air Defence Systems has reacted to the situation creating panic among people.

It is natural for the common masses to raise questions of this nature, since the subject is at primary stage for the Security Forces too since they too are undergoing the process for the first time after awaiting to acquire knowledge on Air Defence System for quite a long period.

As suggested by some quarters of society, having Radar facilities with the Air Force is not enough to counter any air threat since the effective functioning of a Air Defence System based on four broad principles, detection, identification, threat evaluation and the weapon assignment.

The detection part of the AD system begins with the establishment of mechanisms to render early warning of a potential enemy aircraft.

This is primarily achieved either through Electronic (radar), Visual Observation or Intelligence and currently radar is the most favoured option selected by the people across the world.

When Katunayake Air Force Base came under first LTTE attack on March 26, the Radar system at Katunayaka could not detect it due to the pattern the radar system functioned there. But, the detection part was done by the STF personnel on duty through visual observation, though it was not taken seriously by the relevant authorities.

When LTTE made an attempt to launch an attack on the Palaly Air Base, there was a small lapse from the part of the Security Forces in the identification process. Having detected a suspicious target, identifying it as a friend or foe becomes very vital before executing the subsequent function of an Air Defence System.

Command Centre to decide

In this regard, collating the details of scheduled and authorized flights with the information of observed targets is swiftly done by staff at Command Centre to arrive at a decision accurately with no unnecessary delays.

Therefore, identification of a likely enemy aircraft at a point as far away as possible from a probable target would be advantageous in securing an elongated reaction time.

At Palaly the presence of the Air Force Beach Craft made the task of the Security Forces little difficult and such delays in the process of identifying the target as a friend or foe, gives enemy enough time to do the damage and escape.

The Tigers make use of tactics to avert the identification by flying during the night time and flying at tree top level so that the people in the ground cannot observe the aircraft properly.

In the same way any errors made in the process of identification too will bring disastrous consequences, if any commercial aircraft being identified as a enemy aircraft and guns activated to destroy the aircraft identifying it as an enemy. Though the process is similar to the process of identifying enemy ships in the sea, the process should be completed with the shortest possible time since it is difficult to keep an aircraft under observation for quite a long period.

Therefore, it has become complex process for the Security Forces to identify and destroy the enemy aircraft, which had operated only during night time, mostly using the moon light as their guide.

Since their operations are done during night time, it has become an extremely difficult task to identify the enemy aircraft by its colour or by any other sign.

Therefore, it will take time for the Security Forces and the common masses to identify the LTTE aircraft as they have not observed them during day time. Threat Evaluation, is the next principle that should be applied immediately after the identification process.

Immediately after the identifying, an evaluation of the imminent threat needs to be done with lighting speed to ascertain the size, the probable payload and the speed of the target to facilitate the instantaneous assignment of weapons. (either interceptors, Missiles or Air Defence Guns) Many people raise questions as to why SLAF fighter craft could not destroy the Tiger aircraft once they are in the air.

Though it appears to be a simple process, since fighter aircraft which have been used for ground attacks, it would bring disastrous consequence if these aircraft are not fitted with proper weapons system to destroy the enemy aircraft.

Therefore, it is impractical to use MI 27 or Kfirs for the task which are being used to drop bombs in the ground. But if they can detect the exact place, where the Tiger aircraft are landing, they can take precise bombing to destroy the enemy aircraft.

Therefore, during the decisive phase of weapon assignment, the weapon that can inflict the severest destruction to the target will be opted for.

An enemy aircraft too close to a vulnerable area would immediately be subjected to 'Missile Fire' depending on their deployment, failing which, the Point Defence Mechanism , the Anti Aircraft Artillery would be activated.

System to counter enemy

If proper weapon system are not fixed to counter enemy air attack, the Security Forces will have to react to the situation with the available resources with them. Then, there will be only fifty, fifty chance on destroying the enemy aircraft and greater risk factor will be involved if they do not use matching weapons.

Therefore, under these circumstances, it is obvious that maintaining an Air Defence System is not an easy task on the part of the Security Forces since they have to play a bigger role and also share a greater responsibility when fulfilling their task.

Apart from this a responsible Control and Reporting Organisation (Air Defence Radar System), a Radar Guided Air Defence Gun System/Anti Aircraft Artillery Guns (AAA) and Surface to Air Guided Missile System are also integral parts of a fully fledged National Air Defence System.

Therefore, the formation of National Air Defence System cannot be done overnight since it takes sometimes years to form required organisations and to purchase Radar systems and also Weapon Systems, the task before the Government and the Security Forces is giant since the process had passed only the initial stage since December 2005.

The comrades like present Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera should be commended for their continuous effort to bring the process of establishing National Air Defence System at least to this stage by forwarding facts to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga when she took over the Ministry of Defence from the UNF regime.

Under these circumstances the Government has to bear the criticism even from the people who had laid foundation for the situation allowing LTTE to acquire aircraft whilst taking no step to augment national security in the face of the developing air capabilities of the LTTE.

Therefore, the better option available with the Government is to take precautionary action by alerting the public and also taking measures to prevent Tiger aircraft arriving at places of vital security installations and economic centres.

Destroy air capabilities

The other option available with the Government is to physically move to the LTTE held areas and destroy their air capabilities since it has the right as a sovereign state to eliminate elements that is threatening to the sovereignty of the state.

For such effort the Government needs the backing of the entire nation with no political parties to drag the feet of the Government on its march towards reaching that goal. The support of the international community too vital in this endeavour, since it is a must on their part to stop fund raising for their terror tactics.

The entire global community should support such effort by the Government as it is an essential part in the global effort to eradicate terrorism.

The threat posed by the LTTE to the global terrorism was well exposed in the US Report on Global Terrorism as it said "Many LTTE innovations, such as explosive belts, vests, and bras, using female suicide bombers, and waterborne suicide attacks against ships, have been copied by other terrorist groups".

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the international community to intensify their operations to curb terror acts of the LTTE, by way of curbing their fund raising activities and arms smuggling activities since the "LTTE financed itself with contributions from the Tamil Diaspora in North America, Europe, and Australia, and by imposing local "taxes" on businesses operating in the areas of Sri Lanka under its control" to the US report on global terrorism.

The report also states "Using this money, LTTE weapons were purchased on the international black market or captured from the Sri Lankan Army". Under these circumstances any effort by any Lobby to relax their position on the LTTE or to get their Government to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan state to relax its position on the LTTE subjected to total condemnations.

As stated by Dr. Howells, the Minister of Middle East, during the debate on Sri Lanka in House of Commons in UK, that he was very much averse to recognising the legitimacy of suicide bombers, murderers, torturers and rapists. "As I tried to explain earlier, there is no silver bullet that is going to sort everything out."

" If we thought that recognition would take matters forward, we would certainly be prepared to consider it very seriously. I give my Hon. Friend that undertaking" Dr. Howells told when John McDonnell of Labour Party asked whether the UK Government is giving recognition to the LTTE.



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