US fighter jets intrude into Lankan air space

Govt. to protest; combat planes believed to be from the Seventh Fleet
By Leon Berenger

The government will protest to the United States over the intrusion of Sri Lanka’s air space by a squadron of ten fighter jets. The Sunday Times learns that the protest will be handed over to the US Embassy in Colombo by the Ministry of External Affairs.

“What we are trying to establish is whether the US fighter jets had violated the oceanic air space or the territorial part of it,” Civil Aviation Director Genera H. M. C. Nimalsiri told the Sunday Times yesterday.
“In terms of accepted international norms, anyone wanting to use the country’s air space is required to file flight plans and obtain prior approval,” he said.

A senior Air Force official speaking on grounds of anonymity admitted that there were periodic incursions by US combat aircraft into Sri Lanka’s air space. “There were occasions where we had to tell them to move out,” he said.

“We have communication intercepts to confirm that they were carrier-based aircraft. In this instance we have reason to believe that the jet squadron was from the US Seventh Fleet,” he said. The tracking station atop Pidurutalagala -- the tallest point in Sri Lanka -- was the first to identify the intruding US aircraft. Officials there immediately conveyed it to the Civil Aviation Authority and the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The tracking station with modern radar equipment with a range of 200 nautical miles and covers 380 kilometres of airspace. A US embassy spokesperson declined to comment yesterday.

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