The Sri Lanka Armed Forces, which comprises the Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy, and Sri Lanka Air Force, make up the most prominent, strong, and united military of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) controls the Sri Lanka Armed Forces. There are approximately 346,700 individual members of the three areas; Sri Lanka has almost never attempted conscription. The Ministry of Defense is also responsible for the leadership of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, which itself is entirely made up of Sri Lanka Navy personnel.
The History of Sri Lanka Armed Forces
Around 2000 years ago, Sri Lanka had an entire military history. The colonial period is where the Sri Lankan military’s current beginnings can be linked. Even during Kandyan battles, the British established the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. While there were some indigenous people among its members, Malaysians were the majority of them.
However, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces’ clear history runs back to 1881. The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers were a voluntary force that the British formed on the island. Moreover, this had many divisions and was dubbed the Ceylon Defence Force around 1910.
The divisions of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers operated with allied troops in Africa and Asia throughout World Wars I and II. In 1950, the Royal Ceylon Air Force was created, and then in 1951, the Ceylon Navy. Britain aided the establishment of Ceylon’s armed forces from the beginning. However, it helped police throughout the 1950s with state security. The military budget was lowered as a result of a reserve group’s failed attempted coup in 1962. For the initial occasion, Ceylon’s armed forces deployed for war during the JVP Insurrection in 1971. It only took several months to bring a halt to the rebellion.
The Sri Lanka Armed Forces assumed control of the foundation of the country’s defense in 1972 once Ceylon became a republic. Starting in the 1980s, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces conducted an offensive targeting Tamil militant groups. The Sri Lankan Civil War actually began at this point.
Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the Sri Lankan Civil War
Sri Lanka Armed Forces’ efforts against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) commenced throughout the middle of the 1980s. From 1987 until 1989, the JVP’s rebellion in the island’s south included the Sri Lankan military. The battle between the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the LTTE began in 1991 when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) departed.
A military conflict took out throughout the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka during the last period of the battle, called the Eelam War III. Because the peace deal was struck in 1996, the LTTE has broken it 3,471 times. This encompasses the use of children in the recruitment, torturing, kidnapping, disruption, as well as transporting of firearms in regions under the control of the government. Viewed from the perspective of the President’s authority as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, suggestions for reorganizing the Higher Defence Organization could be unlawful. Therefore, when LTTE blocked the Mavil Aru reservoir’s sluice gates in July 2007, the peace was shattered. The operation by Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces ended in the liberation of LTTE-controlled territories in the eastern region. The peace was finally broken in January 2008, after the authorities alerted Norway of its intention to end it on January 3, 2008.
The Sri Lankan Armed Forces staged assaults across all frontiers in December 2008, with violent clashes taking place in Kilinochchi. The Armed Forces seized Kilinochchi and the significant Elephant Pass at the beginning of 2009. Afterward, the Sri Lanka Army’s 59th division captured Mullaitivu. War criminals during the civil war were also alleged to have been executed both by the Tamil Tiger insurgents and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Several experts chosen by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluded “strong evidence” that war crimes and human rights violations had been committed.
Sri Lanka Army
The strongest and earliest of Sri Lanka’s armed forces is indeed the Sri Lanka Army. This was founded on the 10th of October 1949 as the Ceylon Army. Once Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972, the Ceylon Army undertook a new title as the Sri Lanka Army. The motto of the Sri Lanka Army is ‘Pro Patria‘ in Latin which means “For the Fatherland” in English. The official colors of the Sri Lankan Army are gold, blue, and orange.
At present, Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Commander-in-Chief, as he is the President of Sri Lanka. Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage acts as the Commander of the Army while Major General Channa Weerasuriya acts as the Chief of Sri Lanka Army.
The Sri Lanka Army nowadays has around 180,000 current workers, 30,000 reserve staff, as well as 18,000 members of the National Guard. Moreover, the Sri Lanka Army has 13 operational sections, each air-mobile brigade, each commando brigade, one special forces brigade, another individual armored brigade, multiple armored infantry brigades, and also more than 40 infantry brigades.
The professional head is the Commander of the Army and he gets the assistance of the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army as well as the Deputy Chief of Staff
Regiments and Corps of Sri Lanka Army
The Sri Lanka Army has a number of regiments and corps. Let us go with their names and locations.
- Armored Corps – Rock House Army Camp
- Artillery – Panagoda Cantonment
- Engineers – Panagoda Cantonment
- Signals Corps – Panagoda Cantonment
- Light Infantry – Panagoda Cantonment
- Sinha Regiment – Ambepussa Camp
- Gemunu Watch – Kuruwita Army Camp
- Gajaba Regiment – Saliyapura Camp
- Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment – Boyagane Camp
- Mechanized Infantry Regiment – Dambulla
- Commando Regiment – Ganemulla
- Special Forces Regiment – Naula
- Military Intelligence Corps – Polhengoda
- Engineer Services Regiment – Panagoda Cantonment
- Service Corps – Panagoda Cantonment
- Medical Corps – Boralesgamuwa
- Ordnance Corps – Dombagoda
- Electrical and Mechanical Engineers – Slave Island
- Corps of Military Police – Polhengoda
- General Service Corps – Panagoda Cantonment
- Women’s Corps – Borella
- Rifle Corps – Pallekele
- Pioneer Corps – Matugama
- National Guard – Kurunegala
Training for the Sri Lanka Army
When the army was established in 1949, the need for a training center arose. Thus, as the very first step, a training center was established in Diyatalawa, in the Badulla District, and named it as the Army Recruit Training Depot. Later, it became the Army Training Centre. Next, the establishment of the following training centers happened throughout the country.
- Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA)
- Officer Career Development Centre (OCDC)
- Army School of Logistics (ASL)
- Volunteer Force Training School (VFTS)
- Army Training School (ATS)
- Infantry Training Centre (ITC)
- Combat Training School (CTS)
- Army Physical Education Centre (APEC)
- Marksman Sniper Training School (MSTS)
- Centre for Army Vocational Training (CAVT)
- Institute of Peacekeeping Support Operations Training Sri Lanka (IPSOT-SL)
In addition to the above training centers, another set of regiment training centers was established by the Sri Lanka Army for the training activities. They are as follows.
- Armored Corps Training Centre
- School of Artillery
- Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering
- Sri Lanka Signal Corps Training School
- Mechanized Infantry Training Centre
- Commando Regiment Training School
- Commando Regimental Special Warfare Training School
- Special Forces Training School
- Special Forces Combat Diving Training School
- Military Intelligence Training School
- Airmobile Training School
- Engineer Services Trade School
- Sri Lanka Army General Service
- Army Service Corps Training School
- Sri Lanka Army Military School of Nursing
- Sri Lanka Army Ordnance School
- Special Forces Jungle Warfare Training School
- Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers School
- Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police School
In addition to the Sri Lankan armies, these training centers provide special training to foreign armies including the United States Army regarding guerilla warfare, jungle combat, civilian rescue, etc. In 1981, the Sri Lankan government established the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) as the only university specializing in defense studies in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Navy
Sri Lanka being an island, needs much security and defence from sea. So, Sri Lanka Navy is the country’s most excellent primary defense force due to the island’s location. The nation of Sri Lanka, as well as its desires, are committed to its marine defense. Sri Lanka has a strong tradition of naval operations and therefore it is situated in the center of critical freshwater passages that run through the Indian Ocean.
The motto of the Sri Lanka navy is ‘Rata Wata Baņdi Ran Wéta‘ in Sinhala which means “The golden fence around the country” in English. The official colors of Sri Lanka Navy are white and navy blue. The headquarters are located in Colombo.
The Navy Act, established on the 9th December 1950 to build the Royal Ceylon Navy, resulted in the establishment of the present Sri Lankan Navy, which consists of a manpower of 55,000 personnel. The Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force, which was initially named and recruited into the Royal Navy as the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve throughout World War II, built the groundwork for the current Sri Lankan Navy. Its origin runs back to 1937. Once Sri Lanka had become a republic in 1972, the government put a new treaty into action, the navy got organized and assigned its original title.
The navy changed even during the fighting from a small army centered on coastline patrols to an enormous battle power specialized in asymmetric naval battles and skillful aquatic and ground procedures in assistance of counter-insurgency processes that established undertakings of different types of coastal territory wars. In order to prevent illegal weapon exports, mostly on open seas, it undertook operational missions in the Indian Ocean. The Special Boat Unit is indeed the navy’s unique elite Special Forces unit.
Engagements of the Sri Lanka Navy
Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne is the Commander of the Navy at present. Mentioned below are some of the highlights among what Sri Lanka Navy owns as at now.
- 5 Patrol Frigates
- 3 Offshore Patrol Vessels
- 2 Missile boats
- 9 Fast GunBoats
- 45 Fast attack crafts
- 5 Landing Crafts
- 200+ Fast Inshore Patrol Boats
- 6 Auxiliary vessels
Being well-equipped, the Sri Lanka Navy was able to settle a number of security issues that arose in the country including World War II, the 1971 JVP Insurrection, the Insurrection 1987 – 1989, and the Sri Lankan Civil War. During the Sri Lankan Civil War that took place for 30 years, the Sri Lanka Navy played a major role in engaging the following operations.
- Vadamarachchi Operation
- Operation Sea Breeze (Sri Lanka)
- Operation Thrividha Balaya
- The Riviresa Operation
- Operation Balawegaya I, II
- Operation Thrivida Pahara
- The Jayasikuru Operation
- Operation Kinihira I, II, III/IV, V/VI, VII, VIII, IX
- Eastern Theater
- Northern Theater
- Anti-arms smuggling operations
Organization Structure of the Sri Lanka Navy
The Commander of the Navy (C of N) is the professional head of the navy. Thus, he has the power to report directly to the Minister of Defence. The Chief of Staff (C of S) assists the Commander of the Navy. These two heads are assisted by the Deputy Chief of Staff, the Board of Directors (BOD), and the Board of Management (BOM) of the Sri Lanka Navy. The Board of Management consists of the following posts.
- Director General Operations
- Director General Health Services
- Director General Logistics
- Commandant Volunteer Naval Force
- Director General Budget & Finance
- Director General Personnel
- Director General Administration
- Director General Electrical and Electronic Engineering
- Naval Assistant to the Commander of the Navy
- Director General Training
- Director General Engineering
- Director General Civil Engineering
- Director General Services
Naval Area Commands of Sri Lanka Navy
The Sri Lanka Navy consists of seven Naval Area Commands furthermore. The flag officers control each command for effective command as well as administrative control. The seven Naval Area Commands of the Sri Lanka Navy are as follows.
- Northern Naval Area (NNA)
- North Central Naval Area (NCNA)
- North Western Naval Area (NWNA)
- Western Naval Area (WNA)
- Southern Naval Area (SNA)
- Eastern Naval Area (ENA)
- South Eastern Naval Area (SENA)
In addition, the Sri Lanka Navy consists of a number of units such as the following:
- 3rd Fast GunBoats Squadron (3 FGS)
- 4th Fast Attack Flotilla (4 FAF)
- 7th Surveillance Command Squadron
- Special Boat Squadron
- Rapid Action Boat Squadron
- Sri Lanka Marine Corps
- Naval Boat Building Yard
Similarly, each of the personnel of the Sri Lanka Navy is attached to branches. These branches include the following:
- Executive Branch
- Engineering Branch
- Medical Branch
- Logistics Branch
- Electrical & Electronics Engineering Branch
- Naval Patrolman Branch
- Information Technology Branch
- Musical Branch
- Legal Branch
- Provost Branch
The executive branch consists of Navigation and Direction, Communications, Gunnery, Missiles, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Diving, and Hydrography.
Training for the Sri Lanka Navy
The naval rating training by the Royal Navy instructors at Royal Naval Dockyard, Trincomalee fulfilled the initial need for the naval training of the Royal Ceylon Navy in 1950. Meanwhile, officer cadets and specialist training happened in the United Kingdom in naval schools such as Britannia Royal Naval College, Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and Royal College of Defence Studies. Later, the authorities established the following main training centers in Sri Lanka to give the training locally.
- Naval & Maritime Academy – SLN Dockyard
- Advanced Naval Training Centre – SLNS Nipuna
- Naval Artificer Training Institute – SLNS Thakshila
- Naval Recruit Training Centre – SLNS Shiksha
- Combat Training School / Naval Recruit Training Centre – SLNS Pandukabhaya
Military Ranks of the Sri Lanka Navy
The ranks of the Sri Lanka Navy generally correspond with those of Commonwealth Nations militaries or other western militaries. These ranks are grouped as follows.
- General/flag officers
- Field/senior officers
- Junior officers
- Officer cadet
The Admiral of the fleet, Admiral, Vice admiral, Rear admiral, and Commodore are the General/flag officers. Captain, Commander, and Lieutenant commander are the Field/senior officers of the Sri Lanka Navy while the Lieutenant, Sub-lieutenant, and Acting Sub-lieutenant are the junior officers. A midshipman is an officer cadet.
In addition to the above rank groups, there are a few other rank groups in the Sri Lanka Navy as Senior NCOs, Junior NCOs, and Enlisted. These rank groups include ranks such as Master chief petty officer, Fleet chief petty officer, Chief petty officer, Petty officer, Leading seaman, Able seaman, and Seaman recruit.
Sri Lanka Air Force
The newest addition to the Sri Lanka Armed Forces is indeed the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF). Mainly with the support of the Royal Air Force, this was created on the 2nd of March 1951 as the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCAF). Furthermore, the motto is “Surakimu Lakambara” in Sinhala which means “Guardian of the Skies” in Sinhala. The official colors are dark blue, light blue, and white. Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana is the Commander of the Air Force at present. With an estimated operational force of 35,000 troops, both from active and volunteer duty, the Sri Lanka Air Force maintains more than 160 aircraft.
Engagements of the Sri Lanka Air Force
The Sri Lanka Air Force had developed to become increasingly specialized in both high- and low-level air defense, troop landings, airstrikes on rebel-held territories, mostly in Northern and Eastern zones, and air cover to troops on the ground. Moreover, Sri Lanka Air Force engaged in the 1971 JVP insurrection, the 1987 – 1989 JVP insurrection, and Sri Lankan Civil War and played a major role in ensuring the security of the country. During the Sri Lankan Civil War that took place for 30 years, the Sri Lanka Air Force played a major role in engaging the major operations, namely:
- Vadamarachchi Operation
- Operation Eagle
- Operation Sea Breeze
- Operation Thrividha Balaya
- Operation Balawegaya I, II
- Riviresa Operation
- Operation Thrivida Pahara
- Operation Jayasikuru
- Rivibala Operation
- Operation Ranagosa
- Operation Rivikirana
- Eastern Theater
- Northern Theater
- Operation Kinihira I, II, III/IV, V/VI, VII, VIII, IX
Organization Structure of the Sri Lanka Air Force
The Commander of the Air Force is the professional head of the air force. He reports directly to the Minister of Defence. Under him, the Air Force Board of Management comes and it consists of the 13 directors namely:
- Chief of Staff
- Deputy Chief of Staff
- Director of Air Operations
- Ground Operations Director
- Director of Aeronautical Engineering
- Director of General Engineering
- Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering Director
- Director Logistics
- Director Administration
- Civil Engineering Director
- Director Health Services
- Director Training and Welfare Director
Air Bases, Academies, and Stations of Sri Lanka Air Force
Sri Lanka Air Force consists of 6 air bases and academies. They are:
- China Bay Sri Lanka Air Force Academy (SLAF China Bay)
- Sri Lanka Air Force Base, Anuradhapura (SLAF Anuradhapura)
- Hingurakgoda Sri Lanka Air Force Base (SLAF Hingurakgoda)
- Katunayake Sri Lanka Air Force Base (SLAF Katunayake)
- Ratmalana Sri Lanka Air Force Base (SLAF Ratmalana)
- Vavuniya Sri Lanka Air Force Base (SLAF Vavuniya)
In addition, there are 15 air force stations throughout the island. They are as follows.
- Ampara Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Batticaloa Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Colombo Sri Lanka Air Force Station – Air Force Headquarters
- Diyatalawa Sri Lanka Air Force Station – Ground combat training center
- Ekala Sri Lanka Air Force Trade Training School – Advanced & Specialized Trade Training School
- Iranamadu Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Katukurunda Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Koggala Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Mullaitivu Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Palaly Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Palavi Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Sigiriya Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Wirawila Sri Lanka Air Force Station
- Mirigama Sri Lanka Air Force Station – Radar station of the National Air Defence System
- Pidurutalagala Sri Lanka Air Force Station – summit of Mount Pidurutalagala – Radar station of the National Air Defence System
Zonal Commands and the Flying Squadrons of Sri Lanka Air Force
The Sri Lanka Air Force has four zonal commands. An air officer controls each command for command and administrative control. These four zonal commands are:
- Eastern Zonal Command
- Northern Zonal Command
- Southern Zonal Command
- Western Zonal Command
In addition to all these, Sri Lanka Air Force consists of 13 flying squadrons namely:
- No. 1 Flying Training Wing
- No. 2 Heavy Transport Squadron
- No. 3 Maritime Squadron
- No. 4 (VIP) Helicopter Squadron
- No. 5 Jet Squadron
- No. 6 Helicopter Squadron
- No. 7 Helicopter Squadron
- No. 8 Light Transport Squadron
- No. 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron
- No. 10 Fighter Squadron
- No. 14 Squadron,
- No. 111 Air Surveillance Squadron
- No. 112 Air Surveillance Squadron
Equipment of the Sri Lanka Air Force
The Sri Lanka Air Force is well-equipped with a number of combat aircraft, maritime patrols, transporters, helicopters, and trainer aircraft. These combat aircraft include the following.
- Chengdu F-7 and IAI Kfir
- Maritime patrols include Harbin Y-12
- Super King Air
- Dornier 228
- Transporters include Harbin Y-12, Antonov An-32, and C-130 Hercules
- Helicopters include Bell 206, Bell 212, Bell 412, Mil Mi-17 and Mil Mi-24
- Trainer aircraft include Nanchang CJ-6, Cessna 150, Chengdu J-7 and Hongdu JL-8
- Air-to-air missiles
- Air-launched rockets
- General-purpose bombs
- Surface-to-air missiles
- Anti-aircraft guns
- Radars such as 3D Air Search Radars, 3D Guidance, and Surveillance Radars, Secondary surveillance radars and Air Defense Fire Control Radars
Training for the Sri Lanka Air Force
As the initial step of training, the British Royal Air Force offered the Royal Ceylon Air Force pilots flight training at RAF Station Negombo in 1952. Later, they established a number of training centers throughout the country such as:
- Air Force Academy (SLAF China Bay)
- Advanced & Specialized Trade Training School (SLAF Ekala)
- SLAF Junior Command & Staff College (SLAF China Bay)
- Combat Training School (SLAF China Bay)
- NCO Management School (SLAF China Bay)
- Gunner Training School (SLAF Palaly Instructors)
- Training Wing (SLAF Diyatalawa – Ground combat Recruit course)
- Basic Trade Training School (SLAF Katunayake)
- Regimental Training Centre (SLAF Ampara Combat and EOD)
Sri Lanka Coast Guard
The Ministry of Defense’s Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) is a primary marine federal agency. The SLCG is indeed a multi-mission organization that’s been created in compliance only with “Department of Coast Guard Order No. 41 of 2009”. The main intention of this act was to maintain the safety of coastal, marine, territorial, and rough seas. However, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard was already given the responsibility to actually mitigate drug smuggling, the entry and departure of illegal immigrants, and the sale of unlawful products.
The Sri Lanka Coast Guard is responsible for assisting ships in danger at sea. In addition, guaranteeing the protection of sea species, safeguarding the marine ecosystem, and averting and combating coastal catastrophes are some of the other responsibilities of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard. Such tasks even include maintaining Sri Lanka’s national defense, country’s economy, and territorial integrity. For such reasons as the Criminal procedure Code Regulation No. 15 of 1979, each Coast Guard personnel of the Department of Coast Guard soon became known as a “Peace Officer” in the definition of the word.
Additional Defense Services
The Ministry of Defense becomes the responsibility of 2 main paramilitary groups, and the Minister of Justice is still under the authority of some others.
The Sri Lanka Police, which in response is directed by the Ministry of Defence, is under the leadership of the Special Task Force. In addition to safeguarding VIPs, it performs counter-terrorism missions. Similarly, the Sri Lanka Civil Defense Force provides input to the Ministry of Defense. Furthermore, protection and riot control in jails are really the duties of the Sri Lanka Prisons Emergency Action as well as Tactical Force, which is a branch of the Department of Prison.
Learning and Training of All Sri Lanka Armed Forces
Currently, Sri Lanka acts as the primary training base for the armed services. Personnel of the Sri Lankan armed forces enjoys access to various specialist training institutions and resources, such as a Defense University, a Staff College, multiple Military Academies for said three armed services, and several other organizations.
Furthermore, countries like Israel, the United States of America, South Africa, China, Australia, Pakistan, India, and the United Kingdom provide particular training devices to the Sri Lankan military.
Indeed, the US government’s involvement was really crucial in terms of the foreign military instruction given to Sri Lanka. The programs for International Military Education and Training (IMET) or Foreign Military Financing (FMF) have contributed a significant amount to the reach and reinforcement of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.
The Growth of the Armed Forces
Despite starting from nations like China, Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia, and the United States, Sri Lanka Armed Forces use a lot of heavy weaponry at present. So, in order to address Sri Lanka’s demands, indigenous weapons systems have been designed and manufactured there. The military forces have developed the largest of these. Since around 1992, Sri Lanka has been manufacturing trip flares and other forms of weaponry and ammunition attributable to the creation of the Ordnance Factory.
The Unibuffel is just one of many MRAP-like vehicles that Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME) recently developed. They are now in the business of providing armored vehicles and other weapons for armed personnel. Regarding other private corporations, including Solas Marine Lanka, the Navy’s Naval Boat Building Yard (NBBY) is already in charge of manufacturing small boats such as those in the Cedric or Wave Rider classes, whereas the Colombo Dockyard offers heavier vessels.
The Ministry of Defense’s Center for Research and Development (CRD) is now in command of research and technology. This has produced UAVs, advanced military tools, defense systems, and a multitude of simulators, including network-centric combat devices for the military. The Army Research Analysis Projection & Development Branch (RAP&D), the Research and Development Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy, as well as Research and Development Wing of the Sri Lankan Air Force of the Sri Lankan Army, are indeed the relevant R&D units for the tri-forces.
The Bottom Line
This article clearly proves that the services of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces spans across a wide scope. Nevertheless, their contributions at the hard times have surely impacted for the citizens, as well as for the country as a whole, to stand stronger than ever. Hence, their contributions should be appreciated, and valued!