Low-Tech Air Force Grounds High-Tech Air Force
SRI Lanka’s powerful air force has been grounded by single-engined, propeller-driven aircraft adapted by Tamil Tiger guerillas to carry bombs under their wings.
The “Flying Tigers”—the tiny air wing of the brutal LTTE insurgents fighting for a separate Tamil state—are proving more than a match for Sri Lanka’s well-equipped air force.
After a second night raid on the capital, Colombo, it is clear to South Asian military analysts that the world’s only guerilla movement with an air-strike capacity has been able to attack virtually unchallenged by the conventional air force.
Flying hundreds of kilometres from secret jungle airstrips, the Flying Tigers, in what are believed to be adapted Zlin Z-142 aircraft of Czech design, have been untroubled other than by ground fire as they have successively raided the country’s biggest military base, next to the international airport, and oil and gas installations on the fringes of the city.
After each attack, they have returned to their bases, outwitting the Sri Lankan air force, which has a fleet of more than 100 aircraft.
Even sophisticated radar and air defence systems have done little more than warn of impending attacks and allow time for anti-aircraft batteries to open fire into the night sky, aiming at targets they cannot see.
The air force’s Israeli Kfirs, Russian Mig-27s and Y-8 bombers have remained grounded, along with its force of MI-17 and MI-24 helicopter gunships.