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Sri Lanka Air Force

The Sri Lankan Air Force is the youngest of the three armed services. Founded in 1951 as the Royal Ceylon Air Force, it relied totally on the British Royal Air Force for its earliest equipment, training, and leadership. The service was led by a force commander and its operational headquarters were located in Ratmalana, south of Colombo. The air force operates major air bases at Katunayaka in Colombo District and China Bay (Trincomalee), with a secondary base in Jaffna.

When the Royal Ceylon Air Force ensign was designed in 1951, the RAF roundel of blue white and red was slightly modified by adding two wings of yellow and red, the Colors of the Lion flag at the time - on both sides of the Roundel. The three circles were changed to two circles of red/crimson and yellow with green and saffron wings depicting the colours of the present National Flag. The present SLAF Roundel, slash off its wings, continues to depict the colors of the National Flag but in four concentric rings with the area of the colours representing the ratio of the appearance of those colors in the National Flag.

In 1988 the air force was divided into four functionally defined squadrons, with a variety of support units: Number One (Flight Training School) Squadron, China Bay Air Base; Number Two (Transport) Squadron, Katunayaka Air Base; Number Three (Navigation) Squadron, China Bay Air Base; and Number Four (Helicopter) Squadron, Katunayaka Air Base. Support units included an electronic engineering division, an aeronautical division, and administrative, operations, medical, logistics, and procurement units. In addition, the force operated two antiaircraft gun battery sections and a small Air Force Security Force.

In its early years, the air force was engaged primarily in immigration patrol, with occasional assistance in emergency relief. During the insurgency of 1971, the air force played a major role in restoring internal order; in addition to providing transport of ammunition, food, and troops, it participated in assaults against insurgent strongholds. Following the ethnic rioting of 1983, the air force was placed on permanent active status and participated in counterinsurgent activities in Northern Province.

Under the auspices of the British Royal Air Force, flight training was first offered to Ceylon Air Force pilots at Katunayaka Air Base in 1952. In addition, a number of recruits received flight training at the Royal Air Force college in Cranwell, England. After the British withdrew from Sri Lankan military facilities in 1967, the Number One (Flight Training School) Squadron was established at the China Bay Air Base in Trincomalee. With the increase in insurgent activities in the mid-1980s, the air force stepped up its training activities, bringing in foreign pilots to assist in the helicopter training program.

Officer training is provided at the Air Force Academy at the China Bay Air Base. The academy offers a two-year program of basic flight training and a variety of specialized courses. Air traffic controllers receive schooling at special facilities in Colombo, and weapons familiarity training is conducted in conjunction with the other services at the Army Training Centre in Diyatalawa. In addition, approximately twenty-five officers a year receive advanced training abroad, most commonly in Britain and India.

The Pacific Airlift Rally is a biennial symposium/air exercise involving Pacific region nation air forces. The event is organized by the Pacific Air Force, which is the air component of the United States Pacific Command with a selected Air Force in the pacific region as a co-hosting nation. SLAF was the co-host of the Pacific Airlift Rally 2011 with the United States Pacific Air Force. This was the first time in the history of the Sri Lanka Air Force where it co-hosts an international event of such magnitude. The event was conducted from tomorrow, 22nd August 2011 to 26th August 2011.

The aim of the Pacific Airlift Rally is to enhance military airlift interoperability and to build partnerships between nations in the pacific region, with a focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This was conducted as two individual exercises at SLAF Base Ratmalana and SLAF Ampara parallel to each other. In these exercises Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam as well as the two co-hosts Sri Lanka and United States participated.

As of 2015 the Sri Lanka Air Force had around 160 aircraft, 27,400 soldiers and 1,300 officers. Aircraft acquired from Chia include seven J-7 fighter jets and nine Y-12 transport aircraft, with additional orders for two MA60 transport aircraft.

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) deployed its second aircraft deployment overseas in June 2015, when three MI 17 Helicopters proceed to South Sudan tomorrow to take on the role of an Aviation Unit in South Sudan under the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). The three (03) Mi-17 helicopters from the SLAF fleet along with 104 personnel consisting pilots, engineers and other supporting staff will proceed in the next few days. The Sri Lanka Air Force was selected for the mission through a competitive evaluation process by the UN.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2015 15:49:52 ZULU