ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44

How the LTTE got its planes and trained pilots: Kadir warned Chandrika

The LTTE acquired two light aircraft from Indonesia in early 2005, intelligence sources in Colombo told The Sunday Times yesterday.

Then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had alerted President Chandrika Kumaratunga to this effect in a confidential letter following information received by then Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva and conveyed to then Foreign Secretary H.M.G. S. Palihakkara.

A Zlin Z 143 aircraft

According to these sources, the guerrillas procured three light aircraft through intermediaries. Two of them, in knocked-down condition and packed in two containers, were to be shipped from the port of Jakarta. "Soon after we received information and alerted the Indonesian authorities, the containers disappeared from the port," the source said.

The source added: "we were to later learn that the containers were smuggled in LTTE vessels and unloaded in the north eastern seas and transported inland through the Mullaitivu coast."

Until the two aircraft arrived, the LTTE had been in possession of only micro lights and a Robinson R-44 helicopter. The latter had crashed during a flight. Soon after the arrival of the two aircraft, V. Sornalingam alias Thagadi Shankar alias Shankar, once head of LTTE's head of "internal security" was named head of their Air Wing. Together with some pilots who had been trained since 1995 in flying schools in France and the United Kingdom, the making of an Air Force had begun. Besides the construction of a runway east of the Iranamadu irrigation tank, the guerrillas had also developed a maintenance facility for aircraft. This was with the help of Tamil expatriates.

Kadir’s note to Chandrika on March 26, 2005

Soon after Sri Lanka Air Force Unmanned Aerial Vehicles obtained photographs of two light aircraft on the ground, the assistance of United States was sought to identify them. They concluded that they were Czech built Zlin Z-143 trainer cum acrobatic aircraft.

This was reconfirmed again both by Air Force experts and foreign aviation experts when the LTTE released pictures after the bombing raids were carried out. At that time it was known that the LTTE was in possession of two light aircraft. However, thereafter, an Indian note given to Sri Lanka Air Force personnel who went for training in the IAF facility noted that the LTTE was in possession of five light aircraft. They were capable of flying at altitudes upto 15,000 feet with speeds upto 200 knots.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.