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Sri Lanka Navy

The Sri Lankan Navy, originally established in December 1950 as the Royal Ceylon Navy, was long the smallest of the nation's armed services. It consists of a regular and a volunteer force, each with its own reserve component. In the late 1980s, the navy had an approximate total strength of 4,000, including active reservists. By 1985 estimates, the regular force contained 243 officers and 3,072 ratings, and the Volunteer Naval Force had 64 officers and 427 men, a substantial increase over the 1977 figures (200 officers, 2,400 ratings). Statistics showed a marked increase in the number of recruits. The Navy recruited 7513 men and women as at 11th November 2007 compared to the 4349 the previous. In total, 13550 men and women had joined the ranks of the Navy since 2005. By 2009 there were 48,000 in the Navy, at which time the Sri Lanka Navy deployed over 12,000 naval personnel in operational areas in support of the Government's ground strategy.

The navy is under the direct operational control of a service commander who is equal in authority to the army and air force commanders. The Commander of the Navy (C of N) exercises operational and administrative control of the Sri Lanka Navy from Naval Headquarters, Colombo. He is assisted by the Chief of Staff (C of S), Director Generals and Directors comprising the Board of Management (BOM) and Board of Directors (BOD) of the Sri Lanka Navy.

The navy's primary mission is to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling across the Palk Strait, the narrow body of water that separates the island from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With the growth of the Tamil separatist movement in the late 1970s, the strait became a major conduit for armaments and insurgents traveling from training bases in south India, and the naval mission was therefore expanded to include counterinsurgency patrols.

In the 1980s a cumbersome bureaucratic structure prevented the navy from fully carrying out the basic elements of its intended mission. Although the fleet inventory improved steadily, logistical support to naval vessels was a continuing problem that resulted in poor performance and low morale throughout the service. The matériel procurement process was reportedly complex and inefficient, and spare parts for foreign-made vessels were frequently in short supply. Even where the necessary parts were available, poorly trained maintenance personnel were not always able to repair breakdowns, and inadequate administrative support compounded the difficulties. By the time of victory over the Tamil Tigers in 2009, most of these problems seemed to have been surmounted.

The Sri Lanka Navy is no doubt the most experienced and the only operational Navy in the world to have faced unconventional warfare including suicide missions at Sea. Engaging LTTE’s suicide threats at sea has taught the Navy painful yet important lessons on effectively combating the sea wing of a deadly separatist terrorist movement. Having effectively mastered the tactics of facing suicide boats, the Sri Lanka Navy’s strategies are increasingly being analyzed by other Navies around the world.

As of 2009 Sri Lanka planned to establish a new Coast Guard, beginning with two Navy vessels which had already been turned over to the infant Coast Guard. The new Coast Guard planned to start with 25 officers and 250 enlisted. The Coast Guard's area of responsibility would be maritime security close to the coastline, whereas the Navy will patrol deep waters. The GSL proposed to establish Coast Guard bases at the main ports of Colombo, Galle in the South, Trincomalee in the East, Jaffna and Mannar.

By late 2011 steps were taken to increase the number of coast guard vessels in the Northern maritime border of the country to prevent unauthorized fishing activities being carried out by Indian Trawlers. Director General of the Coast Guard Department Rear Admiral Daya Darmapriya said 11 November 2011 that the department was due to receive five vessels from the Sri Lankan Navy, and deployment of these additional vessels would help further tighten observation activities of the Northern sea. He said that eight vessels had been deployed by the Coast Guard Department to prevent the entry of Indian fishing boats to the country's North sea to carry out fishing activities.

As Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa pointed out at the Galle Dialogue 2011, Sri Lanka navy can play a vital role in regional maritime security in the region. The gradual expansion of operations by pirates operating off Somalia, oil and gas exploration in the sea bed of Mannar, people smuggling and poaching remain formidable challenges.

Naval Operations embraces a wide area of maritime activities. Offshore Patrol Vessels are deployed in the high seas to carry out surveillance on illegal transfer of war like materials using merchant vessels & activities of EEZ. Fast Attack Craft are small surface combatants of about 25 mtrs length and around 50 tons displacement armed with rapid fire weapons. New generation is capable of producing speeds over 45 knots. These units proved to be the most effective weapon against the terrorist Sea Tiger activities.

With the bulk of security force personnel being stationed at Northern area and the lack of land routes, it became necessary to provide logistic support to them by sea. Also the essential food items, fuel and medicine for the civilian population in the North also have to be moved by sea for the same reason. With many attempts by terrorist to attack these movements it became necessary for the logistics ships to move in convoys under SLN protection.

Owing to the terrorist activities where they have carried out attacks using suicide cadres against Naval units berthed at Trincomalee, Kankesanturai and Karainagar and many attempts against merchant ships off Kankesanturai and in Colombo Harbour, it became essential to protect these harbours round the clock. Sri Lanka Navy is the Designated Authority for implementing International Ships and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code in Sri Lanka.

Inshore Patrol Craft are small 14 meters vessels which are capable of operating inshore as well as for beaching. They are capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots. Special Boat Squadron consists of elite Naval troops trained for clandestine and special operations.

Since the early 1990's the SLN had been involved in land operations assisting the Army on amphibious operations liberating land areas from terrorist control. SLN also assist the Army in ground combat duties. For this purpose North Central Command was established and Naval Patrolman battalions were raised to take up this task.

Sri Lanka, as one of the smaller naval powers in the Indian Ocean, hoped to see greater cooperation within the region. In particular, Sri Lanka believes the major powers in the region should work together with all affected nations to ensure that the seas are free of hindrance. Towards this end, Sri Lanka has recently revamped and expanded its Coast Guard Department while further strengthening its vastly experienced Navy. If, with the assistance of friendly nations, Sri Lanka can obtain naval assets capable of operating in deep seas, our overall capabilities will be greatly increased. Considering also the warm relationships this country enjoys with the major naval powers in the region, Sri Lanka will be able to play a greater role in upholding the maritime safety of the entire Indian Ocean region. This would be to the benefit not only of the regional nations, but to the world.

SLNS Sayura (meaning in Sinhalese: Sea), a Sukanya-class patrol vessel, participated in an exercise code-named ‘Cadex 2009’, which commenced in the Western waters of Sri Lanka on 06 October 2009. Indian counterpart Admiral Nirmal Verma posted the two Indian vessels INS “Shardul” and INCGS “Varuna” on a goodwill mission for elaborate training exercise along with Sri Lanka Navy vessels SLNS “Sayura”, SLNS “Samudura” and A 521. Casting off Procedures, Seamanship, Coastal Navigation, FLYEX and Fire Fighting and Damage Control exercises, and searching a suspicious vessel using small boats of the Special Boat Squadron were some of the areas which came for evaluation. The ‘Helo Ops’ conducted using Indian helicopters on the Helo decks of SLNS “Sayura” and “Samudura” was a focal point in the training exercise. The Vertical Replenishment Procedures (VERTREP) conducted availed the Sri Lankan Naval personnel on board SLNS “Sayura” and SLNS “Samudura” to gain valuable exposure and experience.

SLINEX 2011, a joint exercise between the Indian Navy and Sri Lanka Navy, was held off Trincomalee from 19-23 September 2011 with the participation of six Indian Naval ships, INS Ranvijay, INS Shivalik, INS Gharial, INS Khanjar, INS Cheriyam and INS Coradiv, along with integral helicopters and a Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft. 11 Sri Lankan Navy ships participated in ‘SLINEX-2011’. SLINEX-2011 served as a platform for exchanging useful experiences, enhancing interoperability and promoting mutual trust and understanding between the two Navies. It involved various naval exercises, including manoeuvring exercises, maritime interdiction operations, force protection measures, humanitarian and disaster relief and anti-piracy operations.

Sri Lanka Navy's Offshore Patrol Vessel, SLNS Sagara, which took part in the coastguard exercise "DOSTI - XI" held in the seas off Male from 23rd to 27th April 2012, returned on 29th April 2012 concluding a successful voyage. The 5-day exercise was conducted jointly by Indian, Sri Lankan and Maldivian Coast Guards with the aim of strengthening bonds of friendship and enhancing mutual operational capability and cooperation. The trilateral coastguard exercise focused on Maritime Search and Rescue, Marine Pollution Response and Boarding Operations.

The mutually beneficial exercise highlighted the importance of launching coordinated efforts to ensure the safety and security of sea-farers. Participants were able to gain valuable insights into achieving inter-operability which is vital for tackling piracy and related maritime security concerns in the geo-strategically important Indian Ocean. Representing the Indian Coast Guard, Indian Coast Guard Ships "Sankalp" and "Subhadra" took part while Maldivian Coast Guard Ships "Huravee", "Ghazee" and "Shaheed Ali" of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) represented the Maldivian Coast Guard. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard participated for the first time and it was represented by SLNS Sagara of the Sri Lanka Navy.

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Page last modified: 24-08-2019 13:47:04 ZULU