Sri Lanka Navy Maritime Strategy 2025
Since the 2010 conclusion of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict with Tamil Tiger separatists in the country’s northern regions, the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) has been re-inventing itself to develop the operational agility required to tackle today’s complex defence and security challenges. The ‘Sri Lanka Navy’s Maritime Strategy 2025’, its roadmap for achieving this aim, was released in November 2016 at the navy’s Galle Dialogue conference in Colombo. The SLN’s lack of resources, especially bigger ships, resulted in weak security in the maritime domain of Sri Lanka. This situation has led to the rise of nonstate actors and organized groups using Sri Lanka as a hub for transnational organized crime (TOC).
The Navy conspicuously envisaged its future role as the sea-going arm is bound to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nm and staggering Search and Rescue region of 1,738,062.24 km2 in due course. The acquisition of large scale ships and craft with technologically advanced systems is extremely vital for the Sri Lanka Navy as it is aspiring to become a force that has the capability to venture out to the deep blue seas. The vision of empowering the Navy with 20 ships by 2025 has been clearly defined in the ‘Sri Lanka Navy’s Maritime Strategy 2025’. Accordingly, SLNS Sayurala will be the first of the 20 ships to join the SLN fleet in keeping with that visionary concept of Commander of the Navy. Except Sri Lanka, all the nations in the neighborhood have acquired submarines to their naval fleets. The latest country to acquire a three dimensional force was Bangladesh.
The Sri Lanka Navy should continuously seek to maintain a naval strategy to achieve its designated role as required by the State. The ocean area around Sri Lanka lies within some of the major international shipping routes across the Indian Ocean. It is the responsibility of the SLN to maintain an effective surveillance of this vast ocean area in respect of following: – Maintaining Freedom of Navigation in sea lines of communications; Prevent maritime pollution; Prevent poaching and smuggling; Prevent sea piracy; Protection of agencies exploiting ocean resources; Ensure maritime safety; Salvage and search and rescue; Assistance in maritime research.
The needs of offshore control are radically different from those of land-based policing. Prior setting up an offshore control organization, a detailed assessment must be carried out of the assets within the EEZ and of the risks, which have to be guarded against. There may be mineral resources, hydrothermal vents, deep currents, historic wrecks and other unknown features worth exploiting. The protection of resources needs similar careful analysis. The organization needed to control an EEZ and especially the equipment used to exercise control depends critically on the geographical and hydrographical nature of the area.
At sea, a naval force that is even slightly inferior will usually be defeated decisively by and inflict little damage on superior enemy. The ideal fleet for Sri Lanka navy could be a composition of flowing squadrons of ships and craft.
OFFSHORE SURVEILLANCE SQUADRON - In modern naval combat, effective scouting is the key to effective weapon delivery. The needs of offshore control are radically different from those of land based policing. This may not be as simple as it sounds. The agencies and authorities involved in offshore activities would be undertaken, to assess the facilities already available, such as means of command and control, surveillance, communications and data handling. On the equipment side additional ships and aircraft may be needed for law and order enforcement. The patrol vessels with tactical data links can be used to transmit data through a shore based gateway or ground entry terminal, to the database of, the integrated radar system. Navy’s requirement on corvettes as the high point in the many forums. Since the end of the war in May 2009, the SLN took delivery of four vessels - two from India, one US and one China. In addition to SLNS Sayurala, Sri Lanka intends to acquire three more OPVs in accordance with SLN maritime strategy 2025. The Navy received a proposal from Colombo Dockyard PLC, an experienced ship builder, to build two OPVs. However, contract in this regard is yet to be finalized.
FAST ATTACK CRAFT SQUADRON - Naval warfare centers on the process of attrition. Attrition comes from the successful delivery of firepower.18 In recent past FAC were mainly responsible for most of the enemy craft destruction and they will remain as vanguard of the Navy. It has been experienced that weapon outfit of FAC were incapable to cause destruction to the enemy. The weapon outfit has to be continuously tested and the capabilities and shortcoming to be observed by team of experts. History shows naval battles are hard fought and destructive, but high morale and courage in combat always depend on superior machines. Therefore SLN should in possession of wellfitted FAC for outwitting or outfighting a unequalled enemy. CDL is a Board of Investment of Sri Lanka registered, Colombo Stock exchange listed company operating in collaboration with Onomichi Dockyard Co. Ltd Japan. CDL supplied Fast Attack Craft (FACs) to the Navy though the CDL built craft couldn’t match those procured from Israel or the US. In spite of the absence of hostile craft out at sea, we need FACs to respond swiftly and decisively in case of an emergency. FACs continue to engage in anti-human smuggling operations, surveillance IUU fishing as well as search-and-rescue operations.
AUXILIARY SQUADRON - Although Sri Lanka has extensive road network, sea transportation remained as cheapest means of transportation of cargo for various destinations. Amphibious capabilities of Sri Lanka navy will remain as an important element of the fleet when transporting troops and equipment. Sri Lanka being an Island nation amphibious element of our fleet should remain strong and capable to react to urgent requirement of army even without major amphibious operation. The auxiliary squadron may remain as the workhorse of the navy. During the latter part of 1980s the SLN was able to acquire amphibious capability and carry out successful amphibious operations since then.
INSHORE PATROL CRAFT SQUADRON - Owing to continuous harbour security and inshore patrol requirements, demands for Inshore patrol craft will remain unchanged. Sri Lanka Navy has started a new project to built Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) locally. The local builders would be encouraged to build IPC with lesser length and with high speed. The weapon outfit for the IPC needs to be reviewed considering the threat perception of the enemy. The SLN undertook Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) building project a long time ago. The Navy is continuing to build IPCs for its own use as well as other agencies, both local and abroad. In Feb 2019, Sri Lanka gifted two 14.85 m long IPCs to Seychelles at the Sri Lankan Navy shipyard Rangala Institute in the Colombo Port. President Sirisena participated at the event. The construction of two IPCs were undertaken following President Sirisena’s official visit to Seychelles in Oct 2018.
Russia and China have offered OPVs to the SLN, and the plan of the navy is to have a 20-ship fleet in 2025 with the “acquisition of a minimum of two Frigates and Corvettes by 2025 … [which] will enhance the surveillance depth and reach to a greater new high.”
The proposed 20 vessel navy included eight in service before the acquisition of AOPV. The eight included four OPVs (SLNS Sayura, SLNS Samudura, SLNS Sagara and SLNS Jayasagara) two Fast Missile Vessels (SLNS Suranimala and SLNS Nandimitra) and two Fast Patrol Boats received from Australia. Twelve vessels expected to be acquired over the next couple of years comprises four OPVs, including the AOPV commissioned on Wednesday, two Fast Missile Vessels, two Frigates, two Fast Patrol Boats and two Corvettes.
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