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?