Thursday, October 25, 2007

Athas' 'Deep Sea' Blunder

Renowned defence columnist Iqbal Athas, in an interview with the Hindustan Times has made the following statement; (in the words of the newspaper)

"Iqbal Athas, Sri Lanka correspondent of Jane's Defense Weekly told Hindustan Times, that that the SLAF's Chinese-made K-8 jet trainer and a propeller driven naval reconnaissance plane were also destroyed, crippling the Sri Lankan Navy's deep sea operations."

The reference to the 'propeller driven naval reconnaissance plane' is the C12-Huron Beech Super King aircraft destroyed by the Tigers on Monday. This account is counter factual. The Beechcraft has never assisted the Navy in deep sea operations. The only time it assisted them was in September last year when it captured, along with other surveillance units, an accurate image of an LTTE ship. The fast mid-sized ship was more a boat than a ship. This enabled the SLN to seek and destroy the vessel. The Beechcraft has never assisted the Navy in any of its deep sea operations ever. It did not have the capacity to travel such distances, which sometimes involved deep sea operations to the outer atolls of Australia.


hemantha said...

May be he is adding a new chapter to his defence novel.

SLWATCH said...

The public is misinformed by journalists who sensationalize things just to sell their work and are less concerned with accuracy and consequences to national security.

Good analyses such as from Defencewire is essential to counter this.

Just a minor suggestion: Super King's range vis-a-vis distance to Australia's atolls would enhance the quality of the analysis

tikira said...

no need to reply or to rectfy what Athas stated.its just waste of time.DW it all started when the authorities tried to response to Athas which awarded him the super duper defence journalist titile. we must be wise and talk less.let him speak and cite his so called sources which he unable to name due to so called ethics. it want be long untill the readers realise the truth. well as far as i think he is using his talents and the reputation that he earned as a wepon which he fires for the person who pays the right price.mate time has change,country we belong is not the same that use to be,if you willng to pay you will get every thing and any thing. if one day some one revealed that Athas was a part of huge conspiracy,i want be suprice.

tikira said...

DW,do you recon that the tigers sucseeded their target......i doubt
for waht they did 21men(24rater) are bit two many.either they had bigger planes which the group couldnt acheive or they over used human resource because they werent sure about the acccuracy of the operation. comparing to what they've did in K'nayaka(1) it was less hard work to break into the Apura. if they had ten armed men they could have cuased the damaged which they did quite easily.and i heard that officials were stuned to find out the contribution by the insider.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, I don't agree. The name of that plane has words naval and beech. So I think Athas made a good guess.

Defencewire said...

The maximum range of the beech king air (without radar dome and electronic snooping devices) with a full fuel tank is a little over 1,700 nautical miles. At this range it can carry only 415 pounds. The Cocos island in Australia is around 1250nm from shore to shore from Sri Lanka. Flight to and return involves a total of 2500 nautical miles, without SLAF and beech king air's ability to refuel in mid flight.


Sounds VERY interesting. In fact, the two UAVs lost were the latest Israeli models. I am doing some personal investigations to see whether we can make them in SL in some way. We lost our best man for the job under somewhat mysterious circumstances in Israel. we need an aeronautical engineer, mechanical engineer, electronics engineer etc.

Sarinda Perera said...

Guys, the spirit of the comments here is very disappointing. Defencewire has made a good point and I have the utmost respect for the reporting/analysis on this site, which I've stated repeatedly. However, it is disappointing that the tirade of nationalist rants from politicians has made its presence felt even against Iqbal Athas, as is indicated in the trail of comments on this post.

I don't know how many of you are aware of this or wish to acknowledge it but Athas is easily among the best defence correspondents that Sri Lanka has. His objective analysis on various issues could have been used as an asset by the Govt rather than being treated as a threat. To label him as conspiratorial is most unfortunate.

I won't go into contesting his claim or that of Defencewire's as I do not know the facts yet but it would perhaps be better to find out what led to such a claim by Athas before jumping to conclusions and outright condemnation.

It is unfortunate to note the dichotomous attitude with which politics is viewed in Sri Lanka: ie. "you are either with us or against us"(G.W. Bush). It would be better to know your subject and respect a man on his merits rather than disparage him based on speculative political rhetoric (I refer purely to politicians here), emotions and heresay. Think about it.

Defencewire said...

We do not consider Athas a conspirator. His work filled a vacuum for many years and we respect him as a journalist. There maybe something in his statements about corruption. But on this particular instance, he has got it wrong. Its either a technical mistake or a misreporting. Whatever it maybe, we at DW wish to tackle it, Athas or not.

Defencewire said...

I think the two UAVs list were called 'Hermes' but I'm not sure. Can check and get back 2 u on that.

Sarinda Perera said...


I'm sorry. I thought my comment carried specific statements to indicate that my reference was not to you. I refer to AT LEAST one comment ON your post, not IN it, that more than insinuates a conspiratorial role by Athas. You know that I have respect for your work.

Defencewire said...

I was clarifying our common understanding of Athas to set some ground rules and took no offense from your comment.

Surveillance, target acquisition and recon systems are useless without them going through intelligence. Its not the system but the quality of manpower that counts. Surveillance, TA and Recon are gathered by various parties in various different ways. SLA and SLAF used UAVs, C-12 Huron (Beechcraft) and LRRP to collect information. This is then processed by Intelligence Officers (IOs) and passed on to commanders for planning.

LTTE uses Intel and ground recce only to remarkable use. The difference is in committment and quality of IOs and availability of the 'sources'. Unfortunately LTTE has better sources than we.

GoldenEagle said...


I agree with the quality of manpower statement. There is always room for improvement on the part of our boys.

BTW I heard that we have begun to manufacture UAVs locally. Do you know good they are and what they are called?

Illegal.existence said...

Defensewire, just to emphasis on your points related to the range of the Beachcraft, we aren't talking about a bombing run where the objective is to get from A to B and back. Ariel surveillance would involve flying back and forth over a large area to gather the required intelligence. Especially in dealing with ships, there was no way for us to get information on the exact location of a ship.

The concern will be the effect it has on the loss of surveillance capabilities over waters closer to Sri Lanka.

Castedeus, I agree labeling Athas a traitor is blatantly incorrect. But he certainly is not a mere "defence correspondent" anymore. Looking at his recent Situation Reports, they are more political opinion pieces than defense reports. The ceasefire meant he didn't have any actual fighting to report on so he moved to the political arena, and has pretty much continued that trend. And his political biases are plain to see.

Anonymous said...

I wrote this to defencenet and just copying here. These are my generel ideas.

1.0 Our learning curve

PM said we learn from experiance. He should first read the report of KAB attack. We should not be surprise even if LTTE do same thing again. Our learning rate such a slow one. Also think about other repated same style attacks. (Clarency F., Ranjan W., Parami K., Gotabhaya R. all similer. Gamini D., Chandrika K., Laki A., similer. KAB, AAB similer. List goes on. This is neglegence. we need to fix this.

2.0 Buying new stuff for SLAF.

Earlier I suggested we should not invest hevily in SLAF and rather do it for SLN and SLA and some guys objected. We need to have MI-17 like or better helicopters as they can be used at least to bring injured soldiers from battle front soon and this will put up their moral. Our SLAF now has proved twice how they manage all these very expensive things. If people won't change in SLAF administration should chagne their policy. I still beleive SLAF will deliver very little even we (tax payer) give them high tech UAVs and MIG29s. We have little money and if we put it into SLA and SLN we will get more. It is the foot soldier who brings victory or defeat. These MIGs and Kfirs are good for show and proud but too much for a poor nation.

3.0 Investigations

It is crucial to have this investigated and take corrective steps(not the report goes to drawer missing eyes of everyone). Still we don't know fully Sarath F. and Gotabaya R. bomb incedents.

4.0 Common sense

It seems many of our top guys have no common sense. There were no contingance plan or any thing. I think AAB commander assumes tigers will not attack their and did nothing. Even a AL student I guess make more pre-active steps to prevent terror attacks and make a plan B if he was there. If our defence forces these kind of "management" stuff they better hire few for that.

5.0 Resignations

UNP wants every one to resign (and give the government to them). I am not sure about this but after four times if you can't gun down those tin cans I think some thing should happen.

6.0 Dead bodies

I don't care showing it if there is no media and an so called int. comunity in this world. This may help to releive the anger but tiger propaganda capitalised on that too. Dead bodies are dead and living caders get just angered and there will be more black tigers. However it is ridiculous to talk about human rights of sucide caders (a bishop did).

7.0 What next

It is clear our inteligence was weak regarding this attack. We (fishermen) found many wheopns few weeks ago in A'pura but no body cars. We found lot of explosive in Jaffna many times. What about this kind of attack in Palai? Comando raid with air strikes, naval attacks and artilary from Punarin at same time 2.00 am when there is cricket match or next sirsa kunariya? Are we ready?

MR appoints SLA guy to A'pura. What about P,naruwa and other areas? I think we need to serously asses and upgrade the security of all our bases.

SLAF expect tiger cans to come Colombo to gun down it as SLAF may need some reaction time. What about smugling one tin can to Katunayaka and using a empty road in mid night attacking KAB and go back to vanni?

By this attack LTTE expected many things and we still can stop one thing. That is not putting down our moral.

8.0 Types of attacks

We can clasify LTTE attack into several types and this might help prevention.

By nature

A) Nonavathina rali (Mulathive type)- high casulaties for both sides
B) Clamore- casulaties zero vs high
C) Ambush-casualties low vs low
D) Single Sucide-cassulaties 1 vs high (must avoid one as the targer is high profile)
E) Group sucide-casualties few vs high (must avoid)

This mulathiv type now may not be possible if they are weak. I guess LTTE like other types these days as they will earn a huge result with little expense. So it's mostly about inteligence. I guess LTTE might use that commando type attack on a VIP.

By theri intention;

A) To get revenge
B) To get publicity keep happy tamil diaspora
C) Targeting tourist industry
D) Gain whepons
E) Gain teritory
F) To divert ALDF attention
H) For defence

Most of the time it is a combination of above.

9.0 MR-no worries

MR said he deosn't worry about lost planes but the SLAF guys. I think this is good but may misinterprations by media. I don't think even the monetory loss is larger than our anual wastege and corruption.

10.0 Propaganda

Whatever happened it's over and whatever lost also gone. But propaganda is not over and we need to manage it. Our SF guys gun down more than half of that 21. This means more than half coud't complete their mission. (Those who did commited suicide.) If some of the planes or ammo dumps etc reamins good we should have showen them and say "These were not damaged" while giving out damages. Or we need another topic soon specialy to give international media to talk about. This should not be mis-understood with hiding the truth or protecting MR admin.

11.0 Combined forces

This idea by David is interesting. But I don't know about practical situation. SLN lost the chance to get a ship with helicopters as SLAF oppose it. Even within SLA unit comes first before army or country. We need to overcome these stuff.

12.0 Summury

If we want to win this war we need to be with our forces. LTTE is the best terror outfit in the world and SLDF is not the best army. Also we need to understand the difference between self-joined (ofcourse brainwashed, racist) sucide cader and guy join SLDF for a good pay or for a job. Think about JVP caders. Another thing this war is fought not only in north. There are human rights front, NGO front, media front in colombo. And international players elswhere.

Asithri is correct about out of the box. LTTE use all kind of tactics and if we get bounded to conventional ways we are at the loosing end. Finally, we can loose a battle but not the war.

Sarinda Perera said...


Athas's role as a defence 'correspondent' is complemented by his role as an 'analyst.' This is a better description of what he does for Jane's, as opposed to being a mere 'correspondent.'

Athas represents the genre of journalists who present objective analysis as opposed to mere subjective reporting, the latter of which has long been the bane of the Sri Lankan media. This would explain his deviation from hard news in the ST situation reports.

While you choose to view the above as an expression opinion carrying 'political bias,' I choose to view it as 'political analysis' for the large part. Of course, we are entitled to our own views and I respect yours.

Unknown said...

First let me congratulate DefenceWire on a very informative, balanced site. Your analysis and constructive criticism is much appreciated.

DW, a few observations

With regard to the photos of the Tiger team which attacked AAFB.
Did you see the rifles used by the dead black tigers, they are Chinese QBZ-95/97 bullpup type AR’s, which have seen limited export. But the LTTE got it probably from Cambodia or Laos. I saw on a CNN Cambodian troops carrying them.

I saw the same type with a Tiger Body guard to soosai (in a pic) at a memorial for Dead Sea tigers.

The LAW type weapon looks similar to RPG-22 (also made by Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine).

Note the new type of suicide/demolition Block device around their neck. This would mean that a “traditional” suicide might have not been worn.

The device could other also double as a demolition charge, may be it has a delay/timing device so that it can be used as a Satchel charge. Just a thought.

RomeoAlphaFoxtrot said...

nemsis and all,

have a look at the weapons used from this tamilnet picture.

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mottapala said...

I agree that Mr Athas may have made a mistake. But he undoubtably is one of the best defence analyst in the country. How many senior officers in SLDF do you think get information from his articles. Some of them doesn't even know what happened to them untill they read it in the paper.
Dont forget the good he has done to the country. Fall of corrupt officals like Sandgiri and a former airfoce cheif [cant remeber his name] was more or less entirely due to his exposures. He couldnot be intimidated even by the former president. Nobody is perfect guys. Hasn't he been saying about the tiger aircrafts for past so many years. How many politicans and airforce chiefs came out and said that it was false news. Look what happened now. I remeber some guy called keerthi warnakulassoriya righting about MBRL's repeatedly a long time ago. What happened at the end. Army had to purchase them within days from pakistan when they are under attck.

tangara said...


I have send an email regarding a matter you discussed here...

Defencewire said...

The example of the beechcraft's range was to illustrate what it would involve for the aircraft to make a round trip, which i have proven is impossible. If this is not possible, how can it conduct surveillance in a very large area of water? So your argument fits in nicely with the whole technical misjudgment thing that i am highlighting.

Don't forget Singapore. Wherever there are Chinese merchants, there are weapons. I am also looking at a Russian dealer who is the most prominent supplier for South Asia. These details will be published on this site in a few weeks.

I didn't receive your email. Please send it to

tangara said...



This is bothering me...
I definitely sent it...

It is in my sent item box...Where it went , I got no idea..I cut and paste your email address.....

I send it again...

tangara said...

Did you receive is on the way...

tangara said...

In a another blog, someone says, LTTE attacked SLA in Tissamahaarama..?

What the hell is going on?

Renegade! said...

Goldeneagle,have we already obtained the israeli-built Golden Eagle-2 UAV's?

Renegade! said...

Don't you think it would be better for the SL army to have control over the UAV's rather than the airforce,because the Army is going to have a much better tactical knowledge of the situation.I understand that there is a need to have a mobile control center for the UAV's.So why not take them along,maybe in a container-truck/van type of vehicle?this mobility should provide the Army with nuch faster response time o enemy threats,rather than callin the AirForce for Recon..These army-operated UAV's should definitely provide much more effective targeting data for MBRL/counter battery artllery fire as well..

sldf said...

Like you said we are so behind LTTE when it comes to Intel. This something we need to pay some serious attention. Recruit more qualified intelligence officers, setup special intelligence units through out the country, develop civil intelligence units and set up mechanism to coordinate various intelligence networks including foreign Intel. Easy to say than been done. But we need to be one step ahead of LTTE. And right Intel is the key to get there.

Raptor said...

The Beachcraft was indeed used for maritime survellance, the aircraft didnt need to cover huge distances, since it files at alltitudes above 20'000ft the radar on board is used to scan the seas below. Its almost similar to the way US Navy carrier battle groups use AWAC aircraft to increase the range of their radars. Surface combatants can only "see" around 100 natuical miles around them due to the curvature of the earth. But by using airborne rardars, they can extend their vision to more than 300 miles. So in effect, an airbone radar can survey the sea below it to a distance of 300 miles.

The Royal Navy found out the disadvantage of using ship borne radars only, when in the 1982 Falklands conflict an Argentine Super Etendard launched an Exocet missle, beyond radar range, that hit and sank the frigate HMS Sheffield. Needless to say they now use airborne radars.

I am not sure about the account of the Beechcraft being used in ultra deep sea operations, but I do know it has been used primarily for maritime survellance.

Unknown said...

DW, rif

Yes, I’m aware of the traders. Singapore and SE Asia are awash with them. Thanks for the post.
Did you see the group pic on Tamilnet.

I count 4 QBZ-97 5.56mm rifles (with the ability to take STANAG mags, so they can use M-16 mags for these ARs), and four Type-85 Suppressed SMG’s with reddot & low magnification scopes (the same weapon was found, and is believed to have been used to kill Hon. FM Kadiragarmer).

The tiger (fifth from the left standing) is properly having a night optic on his silenced SMG.

The RPG is armed with a 40mm Frag anti-personnel rocket. But surprisingly no 40mm CIS-40 Grenade Launcher! Which the tigers love and had been used in A’pur. May be it’s the butt of the 40mm GL that showing on the fifth tiger from the left standing.

At least three tigers are carrying RPG-22 like disposable AT rocket launchers in twin packs. The other weapons are (looks like)Type-80 “MPMG” which is a modified Chinese copy of the good old Russian PKMS MGs. and the ol faithful Type-56!

Note the 6 Icom handsets for the team. These tigers might have acted as FACs for the two tiger AC that came over to bomb?

my 2 cents.

NOLTTE=Peace said...


Interesting analysis. BTW, what is your background?

You do not need to spell lot of beans, but interesting to know given your superb knowledge on weapons.

asithrimodaya said...

Dear defencewire

Is this true?

6 SLN killed in Tiger ambush in Hambantota

[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 October 2007, 12:02 GMT]
A guerilla commando unit of Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) Thursday evening ambushed a Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) vehicle, a bus carrying more than 25 SLN personnel, in Thissamaharama in the Hambantota division of the southern province, killing 6 SLN personnel, LTTE military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan told TamilNet. Claiming that the attack was a gunfire ambush, Mr. Ilanthirayan said 12 SLN personnel were wounded in the attack that took place at 16:35 p.m. Thissamaharama division is situated in the constituency of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

GoldenEagle said...


No we have not obtained the golden eagle II UAV. I don't think it would be of much use to us, since its such a small UAV.

What we need is a UAV that can operate in real time. Now is a good time to buy an advanced UAV at a good price. A fresh start I say.

I agree with you, that UAVs must be operated by the army.

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