Air Force turns 70 tomorrow 

Monday, 1 March 2021 00:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 Air Force 70th Anniversary logo

  • Celebrations to be low-key due to COVID-19 
  • SLAF air display at Galle Face Green this week with Indian AF aerobatic teams performing
  • AF develops village infrastructure to mark the occasion 
  • 4 foreign Air Force Chiefs expected, including US Pacific Air Force Commander 
  • 2 squadrons to be awarded Presidential Colours
  • Scaled-down cycle race and rugby tournament

By Asiri Fernando

The Air Force (SLAF) will celebrate its 70th Anniversary tomorrow (2 March) with the main event held at Katunayake Air Force Base, followed by an air display by the SLAF and Indian Air Force aerobatic teams at Galle Face Green. 

According to the SLAF, the celebration will be low-key due to the ongoing COVID-19 with formation-level parades being held at their respective airbases and units. 

Two Indian Air Force aerobatic teams, Suriyakiran and Sarang, equipped with jet aircraft and helicopters, respectively, will join the SLAF aircraft in an air show at Galle Face Green from 5 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday (5 March). Several Indian ‘Tejas’ fighter jets will also take part in the display, the Air Force said. 

The Air Chiefs of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the US Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach are expected to attend the SLAF 70th Anniversary celebrations. Two SLAF squadrons, the No.5 Jet Squadron and No.6 Helicopter Squadron, will be awarded Presidential Colours in recognition of their service to the Nation on Friday. A publication of the SLAF’s ‘Air Power’ is also scheduled to be launched mid-week. 

The SLAF was established as the then Royal Ceylon Air Force with a handful of training aircraft on 2 March 1951. 

The SLAF has embarked on a project to renovate a village in Kebithigollewa, Anuradhapura for the 70th Anniversary. Under the project, the Kanugahawewa village, home to 314 families has been renovated by the SLAF. The project included building 70 homes for those in need, renovation of Kanugahawewa Vidyala and its teacher quarters, construction of new school playground, school building, electric fence to keep away wild elephants and other developments, the Air Force said. 

The inclusion of the Indian built fighter Tejas (also known as the light combat aircraft) may indicate continued interest in New Delhi to offer the fighter for the SLAF. An Indian ‘Dornier’ Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) will also visit the Island this week, the Daily FT reliably learned. Sri Lanka had been in dialogue with India and the United States to fill the long-felt gap in maritime surveillance by acquiring (MPA), with India proposing their licenced build Dornier 228 MPA variant to Sri Lanka. The discussions with the US is focused on the BeechKing Air 360ER Maritime Patrol Aircrafts, a Ministry of Defence source said. 

“We are in discussion with India, the US and a few other countries about obtaining MPAs. Discussions are progressing well,” Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana told Daily FT, expressing confidence that one MPA will likely be acquired by early 2022.

The ‘Guwan Hamuda Papedi Sawariya 2021’ cycle race will be conducted for the 22nd consecutive year with fewer participants, with the men’s race starting on 7 March from the SLAF Headquarters in Colombo, covering an approximate distance of 160 km. 

The women’s race will start on the same day from the Air Force base in Ekala and will cover an approximate distance of 76 km. An amateur ‘Air Force Commander’s Cup League Inter-Club 7A Division Rugby Tournament 2021’ has also been planned with the first leg starting on 20 March.