60 years of flying high sealed with a coin

By Kavan Ratnatunga

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) completed 60 years and to mark the event, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka issued a commemorative two rupee coin into circulation on March 2. The coin is minted to the existing standard of a Rs 2 coin which is nickel plated steel and issued only in circulation condition by the Royal Mint, Liantrisant, United Kingdom.

The obverse has the logo of the Sri Lanka Air Force 60th Anniversary at the centre and the years `1951-2011' below. The words SRI LANKA AIR FORCE in Sinhala, Tamil and English appear at the top, left and right sides along the periphery.

The logo has a large 60 with the Armorial Ensign of Sri Lanka Air Force on the 6. There is also an artist's impression of four planes used by the Sri Lanka Air Force. Below is the Chipmunk, used in its early days, and above are a Mil Mi-24 ground attack helicopter, Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and a F7 GS Thunderbolt fighter used currently. The reverse is the standard Rs 2 coin with the date 2011.

The obverse of the coin designed by the Sri Lanka Air Force has clearly been inspired by the 50th anniversary logo. The 50th anniversary Air Force 1 rupee coins of which only 2000 were minted and only 800 released to the public in 2001 March at Rs 600 was sold out in under one month. It is the most difficult Sri Lanka commemorative coin to find and is now sold by dealers for over Rs 15,000 if any come on the numismatic market.

The decision to issue the new coin was made too late to have them minted in time of the opening of the 60th Air Force Anniversary exhibition. An advance lot of only 93 coins arrived on March 1, just in time for a few to be gifted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and few other dignitaries at that event. A press release issued by CBSL on March 7 states that coins will be issued to public circulation in April 2011. Mintage is listed as three Million in a docket printed by the Air Force.

The attractive 60 page hard cover book in English with no adverts published for the 60th Anniversary exhibition with the History of Air Force in Sri Lanka is sold by its Museum for Rs 500. It lists Wing Commander K. M. K. Keppetipola as organizing the First Day Cover and coin issue. A Rs. Five Stamp was also issued on the 2nd and the Bulletin published by the Philatelic Bureau lists Flying Officer Rasika Duminda for concept.

Large crowds went to see the air show, exhibition and carnival spread out over a large area of the Ratmalana Airport from March 2 -8. The grand celebration was unfortunately dampened by the sad loss of two Kfir jets in a mid-air collision during rehearsals the day before the opening.

(The writer maintains an educational website on Lankan coins at and is president of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society).

Happy Birthday dear Air Force!

Ex Air Force Warrant Officer M.S.C. Silva looks back

It was 1966, when the Air Force was just 15 years old. I can remember as if it were yesterday, seeing my image, as a youngster fresh out of school, in the mirror which stood at the spot where I was kitted after enlistment in the then "Royal Ceylon Air Force" as an airman. Alongside the mirror was a placard which read "are you an asset to your service?"

Twenty years hence, as if by a reward of fate I had the fortune of serving the last lap of my service at the Ground Combat and Recruit Training unit, Diyatalawa, where I read the alphabet of the Air Force. By then the Air Force had metamorphosed into the“Sri Lanka Air Force”.

On that unforgettable day in 1988 I donned my uniform as usual. But my heart was weighted and my whole self was enveloped in melancholy. It was my last day with the dear Air Force, after completion of 22 years of service reckonable for retirement.

I stood in front of my mirror, not as the raw airman 22 years ago, but as a fully fledged one, a Warrant Officer at that, the highest rung of the non-commissioned ladder in his early forties. However, a placard was not there, but the question it posed 22 years ago, I asked my own self in the past tense.
“Were you an asset to your service?”

The image in the mirror authenticated the answer I had to give. It was all revealed from the peaked cap on the balding head to the toe cap of the shoe and the impeccable turnout. Tears welled in my eyes. The brass coat of arms which symbolized my rank was glittering.

The name tag above the right breast pocket identified me as the disciplined and weather beaten product out through the mill, saturated with knowledge and experience of a myriad of subjects and fields both military and otherwise.

The ribbons of the medals worn above the left breast pocket were murmuring the answer to the golden question. The closest to the heart was the most unique of ‘em all, the coveted medal for valuable service and devotion for duty, the “Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP).”

Today I am out of uniform, belonging to the order of the ex-serviceman, and the medals reminiscent of my service, now adorn my ornament cabinet in a gesture of immense gratitude and appreciation symbolizing the motto of the Air Force celebrating its 60th Birthday this year.

“He who perseveres is the victor!”

Happy Birthday Dear Air Force!! “Ad Astra”

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