This is the well known trophy photo to celebrate the first air raid by the Air Tigers. In the picture, two cadres pose off as pilots. But one cannot help suspect the credibility of this picture. Firstly, there is no evidence that these two men were actually flying for the night air-raid. They are not equipped and do not even don a pilot suit. It is true that the Zlin-143 is not a high speed jet, but executing night bombings should come with some minimal night flight equipment. These cadres are wearing the Air Tiger uniforms only.
Secondly, where have these ‘pilots’ carried out a proper training for the nocturnal bombing? Some foreigners have said that the LTTE has to have both passive and active ground support systems including specialized personnel, fuel and communication network, apart from pilots to carryout an operation of this nature. But Tigers have the ingenuity to overcome these obstacles. For example, a mid-level LTTE cadre captured by Military Intelligence recently has confessed that during a personal chat with the LTTE’s Special Commander in the East, ‘Keerthi’, the leader had said that the aircraft take-off and land on roads in the interior and that they have abandoned the runways in Iranamadu and Mulaitivu.
But this leaves more questions still unanswered. For example how do the tigers do night bombings in government areas, if pilots are not veterans? It is almost impossible to obtain nocturnal air raid capability in a short period of time. One solution would be to hire mercenaries. There are many Private Military Companies (PMCs) that can perform these tasks and some companies provide air borne services for a fee. Many are privately operated deniable forces that are extremely secretive.
AirScan inc., is an example. Airscan has also been known to smuggle arms into southern
Despite a 12 minute advanced warning of approaching planes, the AA batteries in Trincomalee limited to the harbour and the China Bay Air Force base were unable to deter them from their course. The AA batteries inside the two bases were joined by gunboats at sea and by security forces personnel firing at the sky with T-56 rifles at random. This is NOT an adequate air defence system at all. The AA guns weren’t enough in terms of quantity to protect the area. They were not enough to build a triangle anti-aircraft formation.
The only other response left for the SLAF was to send attack aircraft to shoot down the planes. The F-7s armed with Air-to-Air missiles were airborne 20 minutes after the Zlins had bombed. Later, Kfir and MIG 27s had bombed Iranamadu. One F-7 pilot has later said that he saw the planes passing below him. The 2D Radar system over Mulaitivu had also failed to locate the area where the plane had landed. In addition to this, parts of
Despite criticisms, some advances have been made in the country’s air defenses. The SLAF had advanced warnings by way of new radars on two successive occasions. The first warnings were issued before the ‘TAF’ attack at
Whether it is LTTE cadres who fly the planes or foreign mercenaries is now immaterial. What is required now is an actual downing of a Zlin without which no elaborate defenses would suffice.
dA and DW
 “Military Advisory Groups and African Security: Privatized Peace Keeping” K. O’Brien, 1998, International Peace Keeping pp.98-105
 “Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Its Ramifications for International Security” P.W. Singer, International Security, Vol. 26, No. 3. (winter, 2001-2002), pp. 186-220.