Special Forces (SF) of the Sri Lanka army celebrated their 21st birthday on the 5th of January at Maduru Oya SF training base. Army commander for Jaffna, major general G.A. Chandrasiri, attended the event as chief guest. Ever since its inception in 1986, the Special Forces regiment improved continually and has become one of the most powerful entities within the army.
Special Forces was initially raised with 2 officers and 38 soldiers by Brigadier G. Hettiarachchi (now retired). Initially it was known as CTT (Combat Tracker Team) and then as RDF (Rapid Deployment Force). RDF scored huge successes in Operation 'Vadamarachchi' leading to the inception of SF. Another key figure in the formation of SF was Colonel A.F. Lafir (PWV, RSP, PWP *) . He commanded the 1st special forces regiment till his death in 1996. Colonel Lafir was killed while leading a 250 man volunteer SF team in Operation Thrivida Pahara which's aim was to relive Mullaithiv SLA base which was besieged by LTTE.
SF enjoys the honor of taking part in every major military offensive since 1986. From Long Range Surveillance (LRS) missions to offensive raids, Special Forces units are used to perform specialized missions in operations. As of today, there are 3 Special Forces regiments:
1st Special Forces regiment (1SF)
Established in 1986, the first special forces regiment consists of the most experienced SF units in the army. 1SF is usually used in ground operations. The Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) equipped with motorcycles is a speciality of 1SF.
2nd Special Forces regiment (2SF)
2SF was established in 1994 as dual purpose unit specialized in both ground based and sea borne operations. It has its own assault boats, diver teams, underwater demolitions unit and boarding teams as well as squadrons specialized in ground based warfare.
3rd Special Force regiment (3SF)
3SF was established in 1994 as a sea borne special forces unit. However with the rapid growth of Navy's Special Boat Squadron, 3SF no longer takes part in sea borne ops. Instead, it performs special missions such as deep penetration attacks and ground based intelligence gathering behind enemy lines. 3SF's Alpha Squad has been extremely successful in these areas and is feared by the LTTE.
A rapid increase in SF recruitments was seen in 2007 probably due to the wide media publicity given to the capture of Vakarai, Thoppigala and several other major LTTE bases in the eastern province. SF spearheaded these operations with outstanding success. However the same media publicity almost cost the lives of Alpha Squad members when their identities were compromised in a local news bulletin.
*PWV - Parama Weera Wibhooshana, RSP - Rana Soora Padakkama, RWP - Rana Wickrama Padakkama