Teamwork and dedication key to success
Aircraft and Airmen were part of his life from his young age and he
had a desire to join the same Air Force his father was commanding
decades ago and direct it on the victorious path facing the toughest
challenge any developed Air Force in the world may face during its
operations, after emulating the footprints of his father.
Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, the Commander of the Sri Lanka
Air Force who became a part of the victorious team which contributed
towards eliminating LTTE terrorism was happy for achieving this enormous
task not only as the Commander of the Air Force but also as a brother
who could at least eliminate the assassins of his own
brother who was killed in a missile attack by the LTTE when he was
piloting an aircraft in 1995.
“I did my duty by my brother and also by the three Service and Police
personnel who made the supreme sacrifice in the battlefront and also
towards the whole population who had suffered due to the terror acts of
the LTTE”, the Air Force Commanders says expressing his heart felt
feeling about this victory.
He emphasized and repeated the word ‘team work’ when explaining each
and every victory achieved by the Air Force as it was the key factor
behind the success achieved by the Air Force.
“And also the SLAF shared all the criticism against it as a team”, he
At the time the LTTE was eliminated in the Vellamullivaikkal, he was
a happy man as they were aware that they have finished off the air
capability of the LTTE.
“We knew that they had five aircraft of which three were destroyed by
us one in Mullaitivu and the other two in Colombo, the other two
aircraft were destroyed during their training sessions. We were aware
that they were in possession of a helicopter but we did not get any
information about it”, the Air Force Commander says.
Air Marshall Goonetileke says that he had the firm conviction that
they could win this war when he was appointed the Air Force Commander
under the Rajapaksa administration. The leadership given by the
President and the strength given by Defence Secretary had enormous
effect on the three Forces and the Police to achieve this victory and to
face all sorts of challenges.
“Without that conviction it was very difficult to start this war on a
positive note”, he says.
At the time the Security Forces began military operations the Army
was very well organised, the Navy was organised and the Air Force was
also ready to face any situation and it was also very well organized.
“The day we started and continued I knew that it was the end of the
LTTE. So we knew we could finish it and happy that we could do that very
quickly”, the Air Force Commander says. The SLAF had to come a long way
to face the challenge of destroying low flying aircraft of the LTTE.
“We have been set through the hardest of the test. Establishing of
the air defence system was one of the toughest tests that the Air Force
can go through especially when we did not have an air defence system.
That is the first challenge we got and it was one of the toughest
challenges that any developed Air Force may face”, he says.
To face this challenge the SLAF did not have sophisticated missiles
but it readjusted things and got things done within the Air Force to
face this challenge.
“It was with the determination of the pilots that enabled them to
successfully shoot them down”, the commander says, talking of the LTTE
Even the air gunners and the people who were holding those search
lights managed to get the aircraft on their beam and the gunners could
shoot them off.
Facing all these challenges, he managed to overcome the fighting
capability of the LTTE especially during night time and for low flying
Although there was a firm determination that Tiger leader will one
day be killed in an air raid, the Air Force Commander says that there
was a reason for not happening so.
“Finally we knew where he was hiding because it was a very small
area. So we could drop a few bombs and destroy him. May be you may not
be able to identify him if he was killed in an air raid.
But of course there was a directive issued by the President not to
use heavy weapons and not to use air raids any more because of the
concern for civilian life in that area.
So we stopped our air activities”, he says.
But he was happy that the way Army could encircle the LTTE leader and
“The Army worked very hard, sweated hard to corner him in that tiny
land strip. So I think it was the fitting way to finishing off the LTTE.
They got the credit and they deserved it also,” the Air Force Commander
says in a humble tone.
Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, being a member of a family
which produced two Commanders to the Air Force and sacrificed one of his
brothers in defending the motherland is ready to create history in the
Air Force, as his son Rehan is also ready to follow the footsteps of his
father and grandfather, determined to join the SLAF soon.