Friday, October 31, 2008

TAF vs SLAF - A Realistic Analysis

Once again, LTTE jubilate their foreign living funders (so called Diasporas) with an array of air raids done to Mannar and Colombo. In this attempt, they first did a destructive (? not sure) attack to Mannar military base to get the military eye focused on to Mannar, and then they sneak their way to the main target at Colombo. That sounds like a good plan.

According to the media information, two bombs have fallen to Thalladi, Mannar where our Army base is located and then those two LTTE aircrafts were headed toward President House while bombing Kelanathissa power plant on their way. This drama triggered the Colombo air defense system, which minimized the possible damages. However both of these LTTE aircrafts were managed to sail their way back safelyto marked their 11th victorious air raid on our sky (Yes, it is a shame). This incident raised lots of questions and was an eye opener for public to question the accountability of our Air Marshal WDRMJ Goonetileke’s exclusive interview given below...

Q: You are confident that the LTTE air capability is no longer a threat to the SLAF?
A: Yes we can say that we can deal with them effectively. Last time they came and dropped bombs in Weli Oya. That was the safest location they could reach and drop bombs and return.

What is this Z-143 and who is TAF and SLAF

The Z-143 is a light aircraft, famous for pilot training. Its great flight characteristics and additional instruments make the ZLIN easy to fly at night or (in) low visibility conditions. It is reported that Tamil Tiger Air Force (TAF) is having 3 or 4 modified versions of this aircrafts (They have purchased them during the peace time with the help of either Norwegian “piece” makers or some NGOs). Today TAF has become the first terrorist outfit in the world to have an air force associate with them. In the field of general aviation, this aircraft is incompetent even competing with a much simpler and lighter aircrafts such as Cessna or Piper. However the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), a much stronger rival, is struggling in big time to protect their air space against this enemy today.

The ZLIN is an amazingly low grade flying machine (with Max. Speed ~ 267 km/h and Endurance ~ 5 hours and 10 minutes and Range with max fuel ~1000km). The TAF is using it to their maximum advantage while SLAF is struggling to fight it with much more superior modern state of art technologies, weapons and aircrafts. They have aircraft such as F-7Gs (with Max. Speed ~ 2,175 km/h), Mi-24 (with Max. Speed ~ 335 km/h), Kefir and MIG 21-27. It is said that Mi 24 has recently been upgraded with modern Israeli FLIR and electronic warfare systems and radar, with fully functional helmet mounted target tracking systems, and AAMs as well. So with all these it is very interesting to analyze and see “why we cannot” and “how we can improve” on counter attacking these so called low flying tin-cans.

What limitations SLAF is having today

Systematic – It is said that SALF needed to follow a lengthy/ time consuming approval process followed by a series of checkup before taking off an aircraft. This may not only delay the mission start but also earns time for TAF to go back and disappear themselves into the north jungles. The approval processes may have its reasons and I don’t have any questions having it for all general missions too. But the mission related to TAF is an exceptional one. Therefore that need some special adjustments and creative planning to improve our effectiveness against this enemy.

Leadership – It is said that media can make a patriot out of an enemy or wise versa. However if the incompetency of the SLAF leader is what putting everybody at risk today, then this will be our last chance to correct it. Because in the next time, LTTE will make sure to do it right and the result of it may even be the end of this WAR.

Equipment – The main weapons we have for air to air combat are F-7 (Chinese version of Mig 21) and the upgraded MI 24.

The F-7 have a very basic radar system (the range is relatively shorter ~ 30 km) which makes it nearly impossible to find and attack a low flying aircraft at night. It just has only the “close air-to-air agile combat” ability. It does not have various other advance options to be effective in an Air-to-Air combat (simply it can attack another plane right in front of it). So to me, F-7 is not a effective weapon against ZLIN. It has to have some luck (or some extra-ordinary ability), for you to find / hit / destroy a low flying zlin in a dark night uisng an F-7.

The MI-24 is relatively a better (radar coverage is ~ 10 km). However we may need to have at least 10-15 Mi 24 helicopters to increase the probability of finding the enemy in a random search. The way LTTE operate ZLIN will challenge the Mi-24 radar system as it may not detect a low flying air craft at a distance. But once engaged, a MI 24 has a better chance of destroying a ZLIN, with it advance weapons, low flying ability and slow speed, than a F-7.

Analysis of the current situation?

If the government of Sri Lanka or our military hand is looking to buy more expensive weapons / advance aircraft to sail over this challenging enemy. I bet we will end up spending all our money yet LTTE will keep outsmarting us. We spent enough money over this already and none of those counter measures took, worked but became white elephants. SLAF needs to understand that it is not about weapons but about smartness what matters here. I have no doubt that ZLIN is a very creative and innovative selection from TAF side. The LTTE is keep on effectively outsmarting SLAF over and over with their "kurumbatti machine" (name is as per our mad, uneducated media). But SLAF is still not getting it, that is the problem (for me).

So buying new euipment will encourage the enemy to be more advanced next time. It will be easier to beat him in the current context, by smartly closing and openning loop holes in the current system, than in a whole new context. Today, SLAF is trying to change the pillow cover to cure thier eye ache (or whatever).

Right now there is a high demand to install a 3d radar system to fight against this tiny enemy. I think we needs at least 4 radars (there are some which can trace up to 90 km) to cover up the whole island. I am not sure how costly they are, or how messy their radar images can be, but to me they look very expensive (unnecessarily). In the recent incident the ground soldiers of the FDL noticed these planes well over before it reaches Colombo, so then we have detected the planes. Then, why we need a much more expensive radar system, is it just to trace the planes? Again what if LTTE may have fixed Radar Jammer already? Again what guarantee we have to say that LTTE can't destroy the radar units via a ground attack? Let’s assume that we have the radar system in place, but still a radar cannot gun down a plane? Can it? It is like having the Plan-B, without the Plan-A.

From the other hand, it can be the world's most expensive and sophisticated radar system. We can have radars also mounted along the costal line (range is ~3km? or limited). But to effectively track a low flying aircraft with a radar system is not practical. It is given that the earth’s sphere shape and the high land diversity of Sri Lanka (rivers, mountains etc).

I know that all tall building in Colombo is having cheap anti aircraft guns mounted now. But they seem to be capable of effectively “missing” the target all the time. So anti aircraft guns (we have) are not a very good option to fight with ZLIN either. I hate to say this, this ENEMY IS A SMART ONE and if you are to beat him, WE HAVE TO OUTSMART HIM. It is a chess game, no matter how many times you change the board, if you are not smart enough, then you will ended up losing the game. In this case buying more equipment is like changing the board.

I think it requires a combine effort and a effective utilization of current resources to bring down this tiny master. I am not a military expert but these are my two cents..

  • -If they plan well, outsmart them with superior plans
  • -If we cannot break into their intelligent secrets, break into them by outsmarting them.
  • -If our LRRP cannot penetrate into Kilinochchi, penetrate into it by outsmarting them.
  • -If they manage to hide their aircrafts, reveal them by outsmarting them.
  • -If they manage to sneak their way to Colombo, outsmart them by catching them.
  • -If they have radar jammers to find their way, outsmart them by blocking their ways.
  • -If you cannot bribe Tamils, outsmart them by bribing them

It is only by outsmarting our enemy that we can win here and not by buying new weapons or equipments. If you choose the second, then we can delay the next attack but won't be able to prevent it.

In my mind our first goal has to be to locate the ZLIN base. We don’t have to wait till they attack again to do that? Today the LTTE activities are limited to killinochchi, which is a 625 square kilometers area. It is just 25 Km wide land area. It cannot be that hard, given the things we did before (SLAF look at SLA). Unfortunately we are not focusing on doing that. We always try to spend more money over defending us against ZLIN but do little over offending TAF.

Enough is enough and this is the time to stand tall ..


TropicalStorm said...

Nice article. Keep it up.

TropicalStorm said...


We seem to think alike a lot.

Please take a look at my blogs below and feel free to take any ideas. It is important that we voice our concerns and get some of these morons to wake up and do their jobs.

commando said...

Nirosh, Thank you for your kind response and writing the great article.
I agree with your ideas and specially the "outsmart" approach. I think that is the right approach what the SLAF needs. What we need is to adjust. I would like to have a discussion on the issues you mentioned about out-smarting.
For every point I would suggest a structure like this and have a general discussion and deepen our knowledge:( I would also research and publish the comments here, that we can share it and have a good discussion on the issue)
1. Problem of threat:
e.g Radar footage is not accurate and the TAF planes cannot be monitored accurately.
2. What is the cause:
e.g. The current radar coverage is not enough or part of the flight is over see.
3. Why is the threat:
e.g. Can come to any place of the country
3. Taken precautions:
Idara || in vavunia and other monitoring stations.
4. Was that costly?
5. Was it suited for the country.
6. Alternatives:
Perhaps giving a communication set to the ground based army units to transmit them the time of hearing the planes at night would have been better.
7. Is the alternative cost effective?
8. Can we develop other techniques to overcome this threat?
e.g not going for "made in India".
9. What are the alternative solutions in the market for our solution.
e.g Chinese radar.
10. Are they reliable?
11.Can we build this technology?
12. so on:

From my point of view what the SLDF currently lacks.

I see the adaptability as the basis of your outsmarting approach.

Some of the thoughts that came in to my mind when reading your article.

One of the best statements I read from from defense secretary.
"The rain will come and the water will flow downwards, and we will change and go with the flow". I think it is so simple like that. Just focus on the current threat and adapt and endure. I don't understand why the SLAF is not doing this. I think they are readying for a war with another country, but not with TAF.

One of the navy seal commanders told " We need tough guys in the forces, who do the things in a heart beat when going the harm's way and takes the quick action, and we don't need the jerk type of guys who always stay behind". Are our air force guys that smart enough?

The overall commander of the Us forces once said when questioned about the threat of terrorism.
The difference between the war and sport is that, they bury the guy who comes in second place. By their incapability SLAF puts all of us in risk.

Nirosh said...


Some of the suggestion you have mentioned here are the ones that came to my mind too.. I didn't write them here as the Post getting unnecessary longer..

Perhaps giving a communication set to the ground based army units to transmit them the time of hearing the planes at night would have been better.

I have more here, but think about a small cheap device that most soldiers carries, where it can send two signals one to a centralized monitoring center to detect its position, another to trigger all other devices to alert mode. The main center will track the device location roughly and you transmit the location to f-7 (radar range 30km) or MI 24(radar rage 10 km), which are already on air seeking for this dumb ZLIN.

It is great to see ones who think alike getting together..

I have more.. tell me where you want to have the discussion..

Nirosh said...


When you say

One of the best statements I read from from defense secretary.

Smart.. is it really our Defense Secretary? No doubt why he is doing great..

Anonymous said...

that is one hell of a real analysis.. great man..

Ravana - The Noble Emperor of Lanka

He was the king for all human and divine races, and the one who can command the Sun.