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Unprecedented Glorious Victory | dailynews.lk

Combined operation conducted by the Forces brought victory

Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda


The Navy developed a new counter strategy to overcome the threat of high speed suicide boats. The Navy conceptualised the small boats concept and built these small, high speeds, extremely manoeuvrable with a very strong fire power. Building a dvora/FAC takes a long period unlike fiber glass craft.

“Whenever, we had sea battles, the LTTE used to out number us. For example, when we put 15 FACs the LTTE put 30 high speed boats mixed with suicide boats. In this situation, if we miss a suicide boat that will be a huge threat for us.

Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, first serving four stars Admiral and a war hero who fought ruthless terrorist outfit and helped bring peace and unity to the nation. On his view, it was a combined operation conducted by the Navy, Army, Air Force, Police and Civil Defence Forces to eradicate three decades of terror and liberate the country. The major factor of victory was the unwavering leadership of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He did not yield to international pressure. He galvanized the public support behind the Armed Forces. The commitment and dedication of Defence Secretary who coordinated the activities of the Three Forces, Police & Civil Defence Force is the second most important factor. All Three Forces, Police and Civil Defence Force did their utmost which is another major factor in this victory. The public and the media support were the other factors.

Since the Navy was formed on December 09, 1950 as Royal Ceylon Navy, it had contributed immensely such as to protect the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, participated in ceremonial functions, assist civil authorities in national calamities such as floods, Tsunami, etc. and aid to civil power.

With the escalation of war and establishing sea tiger wing the Navy had to face biggest challenge in its history that to fight against the LTTE at sea. The LTTE used the sea as a main medium to carry out various activities. However, the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) was able to counter this threat effectively and crushed the LTTE along with other two forces and Police.

Development of Sea Tigers

Aftermath of escalating war in 1983, the LTTE intensified its activities against the Security Forces. The LTTE started its Sea Wing in 1985, at that time it was known as “Kadal Pura” (Sea Pigeon). Gradually they improved their activities at sea.

The LTTE carried out many smuggling activities at the initial stages and also to obtain supplies from overseas using boats with fairly high speed OBM’s. The Navy did not have sufficiently capable patrol boats to meet this type of scenario. Therefore the Navy looked for best available craft with more facilities including superior weapons in the world market to face this threat.

Thus, the Navy purchased Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) to face the new threat. Subsequently a craft similar to Dvora was developed & built at the Colombo Dockyard in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE sea wing could not match these FACs. The LTTE could not outsmart the FAC threat. The Sea Tigers had to come out with new tactics to counter the FAC threat. The answer was the suicide boats. And they used different tactics to lure and damage /destroy the SLN craft using suicide boats.

The LTTE used the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in 2002 to strengthen its Sea Wing. The peace accord gave lot of breathing space to the LTTE. Whenever the LTTE militarily defeated, they call for the peace talks in order to regroup themselves and rearm themselves.

During the CFA sign in 2002 the LTTE got down lot of arms and ammunition, various sophisticated equipment, communication equipment etc. through various means. Most of them went through the Colombo harbour in containers. The LTTE capitalized the aid coming from foreign countries aftermath of Tsunami to get their stuff uninterrupted without their containers being opened.

Sophisticated boats

They developed their fiber glass boat building industry to a great extent as a result of tsunami. Foreign technician in the guise of NGO had provided technical supports to build their more and more sophisticated boats. Therefore, the LTTE could deploy very high speed boats where SLN Fast Attack Craft (FACs) found difficult to out manoeuvre these high speed suicide boats after the ceasefire.

The Navy developed a new counter strategy to overcome the threat of high speed suicide boats. The Navy conceptualised the small boats concept and built these small, high speeds, extremely manoeuvrable with a very strong fire power. Building a dvora/FAC takes a long period unlike fiber glass craft. “Whenever, we had sea battles, the LTTE used to out number us.

For example, when we put 15 FACs the LTTE put 30 high speed boats mixed with suicide boats. In this situation, if we miss a suicide boat that will be a huge threat for us. Therefore, we developed the small boat concept and built large number of small boats in the Navy and stationed them in strategic locations to safeguard our sea lines of communication.

These small boats carried the same punch as dvora crafts. We improved constructing boats, every ten days a boat was completed. We imported engines and weapons for them. Then, we were able to put larger number of boats in the battles to counter the LTTE tactics by doubling our boats against the LTTE boats. This helped us to secure sea lines of communication”, Admiral Karannagoda said.

Supplies to Jaffna was along the Eastern coast and the LTTE Sea Tigers tried to interrupt these supplies many a time. They wanted to cut off supplies to Jaffna as 40,000 military troops stationed in Jaffna. “We totally demolished the LTTE capability at sea to interrupt our supplies to the Jaffna Peninsula”, he added.

Stop supplies to the LTTE coming from out side countries

The other aspect was to stop supplies coming in to the country. In the initial stage SLN destroyed eleven (11) trawlers which were brining in arms supplies. During the analysis of destruction and details of captured vessels we found that the LTTE were using large merchant vessels to come close Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone which is 400km from Sri Lanka.

The LTTE transferred their warlike material to these multi-day fishing trawlers and they land these items at their areas. It was difficult to identify these trawlers, since they were mixing with genuine fishermen trawlers.

Developing various methods and strategies, the Navy was able to identify the LTTE smuggling trawlers. “We found it’s a never ending matter, so we decided that instead of addressing the symptoms we should address the cause.

We identified that these ships are operating from a distance of 3000 to 4000 Km from Sri Lanka close to Indonesia and Australia. We also developed our intelligence net work, naval intelligence, and also received

intelligence from state intelligence services and military intelligence.

The improved intelligence enabled us to locate the positions of the floating warehouse of LTTE close to Indonesian and Australian waters in high seas”, approximately 3000 to 4000 Km away from Sri Lanka, Admiral Karannagoda remarked.

These Sea areas are considered common heritage of all mankind under the UN convention of law of the sea. No country will allow any organization to store illegally acquired arms without authority. The LTTE used the facility that was available under the UN conference on law of the sea for their benefit.

Using our improved intelligence we were able to narrow down the areas of these floating warehouses located. We tracked them down and destroyed these ships carrying arms and weapons in the high seas. That put an end to all supplies of the LTTE. This was a huge setback to the LTTE.

This was the turning point. To accomplish this gigantic task we did not have proper naval ship such as frigates, destroys or battle ships. We used Offshore Patrol Vessels, ocean going fishing trawlers, old merchant vessels with lot of improvisation, innovation to meet the challenge.

They could no longer prosecute the war without the sophisticated weapons shipment they lost.

Security of Harbour

One of the key factors of LTTE grand strategy was to choke the Trincomalee harbour in order to prevent naval vessels operating from Trincomalee.

Therefore the LTTE started gradually setting up their camps around the harbour. If they were able to choke the Trincomalee harbour they would have been able to cut off all the suppliers to Jaffna Peninsula. The Navy understood this and countered their strategy very effectively.

He said the second part of the LTTE plan was to attack the Port of Colombo using suicide craft so that the entire economy would collapse and ships would stop calling over at Colombo.

They made an attempt on July 27, 2007, with 03 suicide craft and SLN destroyed all 03 suicide craft of LTTE and saved the Colombo harbour. The LTTE also attempted to attack Galle and Kankesanthurai harbours by using suicide boats. All these attempts were foiled.

The Navy used the most modern equipment in and around the port including underwater detection systems to protect the harbours.

To do all these the Navy have developed its human resources base. That in the skills of its Officers and Sailors. “We geared and motivated them by taking many steps to meet these challenges and requirements. This is how Navy played its part in this war”, Admiral Karannagoda pointed out.

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