Interiors of SLAF jet aircraft hangers (5, 10 & 14 squadrons) pictured below are clearly visible from any passenger aircraft taxing on the Colombo airport’s runway. These hangers are located on the western end of the runway in Sri Lanka’s only international airport. Supposedly the only one of the island’s ww2 era airstrips that’s long enough for the SLAF Kfirs, MiGs and other jet fighters to take off.
There’s a feeble wall of barrels between the tarmac and the hangers which looks like a bad joke. A window seat from any 2 engine passenger jet gives an unobstructed view into the hangers. Particularly if you are on day time flight that takes off from the west (Negombo lagoon) end of the runway.
Inside the hangers is (obviously) a hive of activity. Kfirs with their canopies open are easily visible even as we speed down the runaway for take off. Beyond is a wall-less tin shed with a row of what looks like F7s. You could easily photograph it all with a decent camera phone without bothering with a telephoto.
Most of the defences seem very much in the open. There are quite a few sand bagged “foxholes” along the runaway. Whoever’s manning (or womening) them would be deafened by the noise of jet engines. Heavy anti aircraft guns are also on display. Exactly where I refuse to diagram 🙂
The level of security for the military’s critical and most expensive assets LOOK uncomfortably weak. Politicians (naturally) seem to have better protection. All those SUVs for the umpteenth minister (and goon squad) are clearly a priority. Its tempting to launch into an easily rant about defence spending but I won’t go there..
LTTE has repeated failed to destroy the SLAF’s air strength on the ground. The attacks in the end succeeded only in grabbing headlines. However such failures (thanks to the bravery of base personnel) shouldn’t mean that security at this installation has to be so visibly thin. I’ll mix a fatal cocktail of hope, ignorance, optimism and speculation by wondering if the defences are better than they seem. After all what do I really know about air base security? Maybe less than well a connected contractor who can force air base commanders let in LTTE spies without background checks.
I suppose taking pictures is quite different from planning and launching a suicide attack. Should any of these aircraft get damaged or destroyed in another air-base attack, the birds in these hangers are old anyway and at the end of their operational life spans (even with Ukrainian surgery).
I suppose the new Mig 29s will be housed in the hangers pictured above. Its a done deal even if others offer logical sounding arguments for cheaper alternatives such as the Brazillian Super Tucano. Or the Chinese built JF-17/FC-1. The decisions made conveniently out of the gaze of the public which give arm procurements their familiar reek of corruption.
Selling Soviet hardware is a big business. Even if the hardware is comparatively cheap and the evidence of corruption in defence procurements is hard to pin-down. It has been that way for decades. Its inhuman not to expect well connected folk to make more than a few bucks. After-all buying MiGs IS a hard job – involving trips to cold places like Moscow or Keiv, even if you can get to sample good Vodka.
If the new aircraft don’t work out there’ll be shrugs on one side and angry newspaper article, blog posts on the other. The LTTE and the arms buyers will be happy. You and your dog will be taxed (don’t expect politicians to sacrifice a perk) to pay for the replacements. If they do work out there’ll be more air strikes at the LTTE. Either way expect a lot of “I told you so” posts from from one side or the other.
Most of us will grumble and mumble about these issues in our blogs, shuffle through the checkpoints and seek escape into the cricket. There will be those might feel secretly optimistic when there’s a news item about another SLAF strike in the Wanni.
Most certainly Cerno will try to locate the targets on Google Earth 😉 If I had adwords running, I could even make a killing of my own with this war 😈