Thursday, March 22, 2007

LTTE Air Force: Fact or Fiction?

The LTTE is one of the very few terrorist organizations that claim to have an Air Force. Their military spokesman has threatened that the LTTE will use 'Air tigers' in their assaults against the army. Is the LTTE capable of carrying a suicide attack using Aircraft? Can the LTTE air force challenge the air superiority of the SLAF?

According to a pro LTTE web site (last updated in 2001), the LTTE is claimed to posses the following aircraft and anti air guns.

  • 2 Helicopter R44 Astro/Clipper Model and Possibly Bell 212/414
  • 1 Mini-Helicopter
  • 2 Light Plane Includes 1 Single-Seater Sports Plane
  • 5 Microlight French Commercial Design
  • 2 Ultralight Invisible to Radar
  • 8 AA Machine Gun
  • 4 SA-7 SAM
  • 2 SA-14 SAM
  • 4 Stinger SAM

Of course, most of the above stats are exaggerated. We know for a fact that the LTTE currently does not possess any functional anti air missiles of any type listed above.  In addition to that, they do not have any combat capable aircraft.

However, when the LTTE launched a attack to breach Muhamalai FDL (which the army later thwarted), Tamilnet carried a news article saying that a 'tiger aircraft rocketed Palaly military base'. It was claimed by other pro LTTE media that a Cessna-150 light plane to which the tigers mounted rocket was used in the attack. Defencenet reliably learns that such an attack never occurred but the sounds of a fixed wing aircraft was heard over Palaly area. The source of the engine noise was not found.

Air surveillance over the LTTE airstrip (located near Iranamadu Irrigation tank) last year revealed tire tracks which indicated possible night time aircraft training. Later, airstrikes targeted the LTTE airstrip and Defencenet can confirm (video evidence) that bombs fell on the runway and on the buildings surrounding the airfield. Whether the airstrip has been repaired now is not known. Another airstrip which was under construction in Mullaithivu tiger held area was destroyed by Kfir bombings last year.

Even if the LTTE does have combat capable aircraft, do they have an airfield which is crucial to the operation of an 'Air Force'? Will the Air Tigers and planes be of any use without an airfield?


  1. I believe Hindu reported the LTTE do have a few anti-aircraft missiles, but they are saving them to protect Prabakaran's bunkers and other important locations only. Sea Tiger bases apparently aren't worth wasting them on.

    And I kind of doubt the LTTE has any operational aircraft cos I bet the Air Force monitors the airfield consistently with UAVs and will have at least attempted to take out had any aircraft they located. But then again, the reason they did bomb the airfield may been intelligence that the LTTE had flight-ready aircraft.

    Combat capable aircraft? Absolutely not. A prop left over from the 2nd World War could take out any light aircraft the LTTE potentially may have.

  2. LTTE air force sucks donkey balls.

    With our new air defense/monitoring radar, SLAF is able to detect the location and take off of any unidentified aircraft. After detection, it should only be a matter of minutes for the Kfirs to intercept the planes.

    Not as easy as it sounds though.

  3. With you on that LST.
    The kfir's speed might not really be suitable to engage small low speed AC such as the Zlin 143 which the tigers got. may be we should have 2 K-8's armed & ready to scramble at A'pur air base. reaction time will be reduced and K-8's can carry PL-2 AAM & a 23mm gun pod i believe. Even a good old SF-260 with .50Cal gun pods would do the you think?
    having said that all depends on Intel, fast detection & interception time, & training.

  4. K-8's can be armed with PL-5 too.
    PL-5 is said to a copy of AIM-9G.

  5. Our MiG-27 i believe have an inbuilt 23mm Cannon. But are they capable of carrying Air-To-Air missiles? As far as i remember the MiG-23 was the air defence version and the MiG-27 was designed solely as a ground attack aircraft.

    The KFir, designed as a fighter bomber is capable of firing Air-to-Air missiles and is also armed with 2 30mm cannon. Our F-7s are classed as Fighters. They are also armed with 30mm cannon and can fire heat seaking missiles. But at the current point of time, does the SLAF have any Air-to-Air missiles?

  6. The MiG-27 probably can carry a couple of air-to-air missiles for self defence.

  7. You people are missing out on something here. Why use Kfirs and Floggers to take out light aircraft? We have the fastest combat helicopter in the world -- the Mi-24 Hind. With it coming at you at 300 Kmph and whizzing past the microlights or Zlins will create enough panic to have the monkeys shitting in their seats. If that fails the chin mounted twin barrel 23mm gun can carve out a silhouette of a beautiful lion on the fuselage of a Zlin.

  8. Roger that hind driver..

    do you think that a Zlin can out turn & out dive a Hind in a "dog fight"? or will the hinds great speed n Maneuverability beat the Zlin? please explain. thanks

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  11. I have four questions to put forward

    1. can a light aircraft fly low to evade radar detection? How low? Is it feasible over long distances?

    2. is there a way to distinguish a private civillian air craft from a potential threat?

    3. how quickly can a Mi 24 or MiG 27 be scrambled from katunayake to meet a threat over colombo? how much time, realisitcally, must be allowed for a successful intercept.

    4. i presume katunayake monitors air traffic over most of sri lanka. what limitations, if any, currently exist in its radar 'coverage' (for lack of a better 'air jargon' term). are there 'blind spots' in the radar net? what other monitoring stations are watching sri lankan air space? how effectively can they respond in a developing threat scenario, ie. do these centers have good communication with katunayake?

    many thanks in advance for anyone who can straighten things out.

  12. The Mi-24 Hind is a helicopter gunship. It is not a dogfighter. The Zlin 143 is also not a dogfighter, it is recreational aircraft designed for pilot training, basic aerobatic training and other recreational flying.

    Light aircraft can fly low to avoid radar, but avoiding radar will be the least of its problems, especially at night. No radars have infinite areas of scan, but its operational limits are classified.

    All private aircraft flying in SL airspace need to get their flight plans cleared 3 hours before an intended flt and all the paperwork filled. Hence, any non-military aircraft that appears on radar and is not authorized, it is deemed hostile and appropriate measures will be taken.

    Mi-24 aircraft will not be scrambled from KAT. They are based at Minneriya/Hingurakgoda and are part of the No.9 Attack Helicopter Squadron.
    If there is a threat over CMB it is too late to scramble any aircraft whatever they maybe, hence the reason we have AAA(anti aircraft artillery) stationed on certain strategic rooftops in the city.
    As I said before, all radars have blind spots but the civil aviation radars are not designed for low level detection. The military has several radars in certain locations that are stationed for exactly that purpose. Some of the southern indian airports have ATC coverage for SL airspace but it is for civil aircraft and is not able to effectively pinpoint any threats. They do have excellent communication with KAT Air traffic control(ATC) since aircraft flying to CMB are passed from one centre to another enroute from destination.

  13. Does any one know the pay load of the Zlin? what kind of damage can it seriously do? It would be more psychological damage than anything else. Besides what is the range that a fully loaded Zlin can do and that also flying low all the way from the north to avoid being detected ? This whole discussion is a waste of time because there is no way an aircraft can just suddenly show up in Colombo. If it’s the so called Air Tigers then they would be taken out way before they come anywhere near Colombo. Enough said.

  14. Hind Driver,

    Thankyou for clearing things up considerably.

    you say:

    "Light aircraft can fly low to avoid radar, but avoiding radar will be the least of its problems, especially at night."

    What if the aircraft was low flying and out at sea? There are no obstacles to hit that way.

    So in your opinion security is good. From what you say, communication between separate ATC is essential to understanding what is happening in the skies.

    China recently provided the military with low level radar units. MiG29 on lankanewspapers mentioned this. Was this directly in response to the light aircraft threat, or something more longstanding?

    cheers Hind!

  15. Thanks Hind.

    Do you think that SL Gov. should get some MANPADS to at least provide AD for strategic locations? If so what should we get?

  16. hey what if the tigers use paragliders? and use a highrise rooftop to launch. at night with NVG's?? no sound, cant detect by radar. would be a nasty surprise eh?

  17. Nemesis,
    Yes that would be a nasty surprise. However, smuggling a glider into Colombo maybe virtually impossible.

  18. Well the tiger "air force" or what ever we are going to call them carried out an Ar Raid at 00.45hr on Katunayaka Air Base.
    Two light AC said to be involed.
    Time to beef up our AD capability and have some AD/civil defense dirlls. Tigers have said they will do it again.
    Best of luck to our boys.


    TODAY (26) AROUND 00.45 A.M. A LIGHT AIR CRAFT OF LTTE tried to attack the KATUNAYAKE Air Force Camp targeting the fighter air crafts. 02 x Bombs were fallen near the engineering section of the base and no damages to the air crafts. Air Defence System was activated.

  20. so it seems the 'impossible' happened. isn't the vacinity of KAT covered by low altitude radar? or was it too short notice? is it also possible they flew below radar range for long durations out at sea? could they have navigated using coastal lights?

    we shall have to wait and see.

  21. SECONDLY.. if ground AD were active in repulsing the attack (dailynews), how did it manage to get away? did it 'vanish' off radar screens? was there no attempt made to intercept it?

    it's a light aircraft for f$#@sake!

  22. We have to be only one TARGET against LTTE, NGO LTTE Supporters & UNP LTTE Supports.
    We should stand up quickly with great power and finish LTTE Soon.
    Since Sri Lankans are One team and Unity we have greate power against LTTE.

  23. Hey Small Country people.....
    Why still sily to get Decision against LTTE Terrorist?
    Why do not have People ( MENS ) fight against International LTTE Terrorist.
    Wake-up, Wake-up Now time to Finish LTTE Terrorist from you small country.
    I guess you may be have powerfully mens not only Womens, Wake-up them and commande them to protect your country and finish LTTE.
    Bring them to ONE TEAM, One Unit & One TARGET against LTTE.
    LTTE is support and trained Al- Qaida to hit my country as well.From yerterday onwards we got strong desicion to stop LTTE Activity in our Country and we will never forget September 11, 2001.


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