Speculation is that LTTE aircraft which carried out Monday`s attack on the Katunayake airbase survived some 400 km of flying distance and that too at night due to deficiencies in the SLAF radar.
Initial investigations revealed that the first generation radar installed by India failed to detect the incoming aircraft until the radar at the adjacent Bandaranaike International Airport identified them.
`The detection was made as the aircraft were about 3 kms off the airbase,` a senior defence official said.
Had the SLAF radar spotted the intruders, the outcome of Monday`s encounter would have been different, he said.
Before the detection by BIA radar, the SLAF had received information about the LTTE aircraft crossing the northern-line-of-control through ground based sources. But the intended target was not specified until the BIA radar picked the enemy craft approaching the airbase.
The government on Monday discussed ways and means of meeting the new threat. The Island learns that that the government raised the issue with the Indian High Commission on Monday. Sri Lankan officials are believed to have explained the urgent need to fully activate the existing system.
Although three of the four radars promised by India are in place, there are believed to be operational problems. The fourth is likely to be installed in the northern theatre. Sri Lanka wants India to fully activate the system on a priority basis.
India stepped in with an offer to establish a radar network after President Chandrika Kumaratunga`s government initiated talks with China to acquire a 3D radar system. Former Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao, currently New Delhi`s top envoy is believed to have initiated the move on behalf of her government as India had national security concerns.
The Island learns that President Mahinda Rajapakse is likely to seek a meeting with Rao`s successor Alok Prasad in this regard. The unprecedented attack has prompted the government to review the existing counter measures on a priority basis.
President Rajapakse called an urgent meeting with political party leaders to brief them of the current situation.
Although the LTTE scored a huge propaganda victory, LTTE aircraft failed to hit the intended targets-Israeli built Kfirs and Ukrainian MIG 27s. SLAF headquarters said that two of the three bombs dropped by the LTTE exploded causing damages to three buildings.
Pro-LTTE TamilNet quoted unnamed airmen as saying that several SLAF jet bombers were put out of action by fierce fires which broke out in the hangars struck by the LTTE aircraft. Up to 40% of the SLAF`s strike capability has been knocked out, the website reported.
SLAF headquarters yesterday emphasised that the LTTE attack did not dent its strike capability. `All Kfirs and the newly acquired MIG 27s are safe,` an official said. `They missed their targets,` he said, adding, `We would continue to take targets depending on the requirement.`
Kfirs and MIG 27s launched from Katunayake engaged five LTTE targets on Monday afternoon and yesterday.
Aircraft targeted LTTE positions north of Mannar, Mullaitivu, Kanagarayankulam and South of Thoppigala. The SLAF said that an LTTE intelligence base and a Sea Tiger facility were among the targets taken.
A senior government official yesterday contradicted B. Raman, former head of Research and Analysis Wing who claimed that the LTTE air wing had been in existence for nine years without the Sri Lankan intelligence having the least idea about its location and capability.
Raman, a former Additional Secretary of the Cabinet of India made the declaration hours after the terrorist attack. Sri Lankan sources pointed out the absurdity in Raman`s assertion. He conveniently ignored that India installed radars after Sri Lanka sought to deploy an advanced Chinese early warning system.
The sources emphasized that Sri Lanka sought the Chinese help after obtaining credible information about the existence of the LTTE air wing. The sources revealed that Sri Lanka also briefed permanent members of the UN Security Council plus India of the growing threat posed by the LTTE air wing in early 2005. In fact, a comprehensive dossier which included even a short footage obtained by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of the `LTTE assets` was made available to the big five-US, Russia, China, UK and France and India. The sources said that this was done at the highest level as Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar correctly assessed the threat. According to a senior official Sri Lanka`s action was in line with US Security Council Resolution 1373.
In the wake of the 11 September 2001 Al Qaeda attack in the US, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1373, which, among its provisions, obliges all States to criminalize assistance for terrorist activities, deny financial support and safe haven to terrorists and share information about groups planning terrorist attacks.
The 15-member Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established at the same time to monitor implementation of the resolution. While the ultimate aim of the Committee is to increase the ability of States to fight terrorism, it is not a sanctions body nor does it maintain a list of terrorist organizations or individuals.
Sri Lanka believes that LTTE is in pocession of a few aircraft possibly Pilatus PC-7, Pilatus PC-21 and Zlin Z 143. The sources said that India was the first to receive the dossier on the LTTE attempts to build an air wing.