During the last month, the Sri Lanka Air Force attacked a series of LTTE military installations and targeted several hideouts of senior LTTE leaders. Some of these attacks were successful and they dealt a significant blow to LTTE's military machine and to the morale of its cadres. Therefore it is not wrong to say that SLAF had the upper hand on battle for the most part of October. However, a team of 21 Black Tigers and two propeller driven light aircrafts changed the entire situation in one night.
Although not publicly admitted, SLAF suffered heavy losses in the attack. More than 15 aircraft of SLAF fleet received damages in the incident. At least 8 of them are damaged beyond repair. Two Mi-24 helicopter gunships (9th Attack Helicopter Squadron), a Mi-27 transport helicopter (6th Helicopter Squadron), K-8 and PT6 trainer jets (1st Flying Training Wing), Cessna 150 aircraft (1st Flying Training Wing), a Beechcraft 200 HISAR, a Bell 212 fitted with guns (7th Helicopter Squadron) and at least two UAVs (11th UAV Flight) are among the damaged aircrafts. Greatest loss of all, next to the lives of SLAF personnel who perished in the attack, is the Beechcraft 200 HISAR surveillance craft. This was the only active aircraft of this type in SLAF inventory and had sophisticated spy equipment such as Hughes synthetic aperture radar and thermal imaging unit installed to it.
Loss of the Beechcraft and the damages done to the UAVs deliver a significant blow for the SLAF's aerial and naval surveillance capabilities. 11th UAV Flight, which operated these aircraft was stationed at Vavuniya AFB until 2007. The squadron was moved to Anuradhapura AFB from Vavuniya when fighting erupted near Vavuniya-Mannar defense lines.
Investigations into the incident has revealed startling facts. One such is that the Bell 212 which crashed near Doramadalawa was hit by friendly fire. Both pilots and the gunner was killed in the incident. Bell 212 (converted into a gunship) was launched from Vavuniya AFB to hunt down the LTTE light aircraft.
After the attack, it was evident that LTTE cadres who carried out the attack wore SLA uniforms. It is still unknown whether one attack team simply 'walked in' to the base under the guise of this SLA uniform.
Black tigers who stormed into the base were armed to the teeth. Some of them even carried heavier weapons such as LAWs (Light Antitank Weapon). How the LTTE smuggled in such large quantities of weapons and ammunitions to Anuradhapura is another question that is bugging the military leadership.
Although there undoubtedly were many lapses and weaknesses in the base security plan, we should not forget one fact. LTTE cadres who infiltrated the base never planned to return. An enemy who does not have a will to live is indeed very hard to stop. SLAF personnel deployed in the base acted quickly to retaliate and minimize further losses. However it was a special fighting formation of the SLA's 2nd Special Forces regiment which completely neutralized black tiger threat. We will not reveal further information of this team to prevent possible intelligence leak.
The LTTE has won this battle. But they have not won the war.