Explosive Laden, Global Positioning Satellite Guided
Tiger Aircraft Cannot Be Detected by Radar, says Jane’s

The LTTE is developing an explosive-laden light aircraft intended to accurately strike a political, military or economic target aided by a global positioning system. It does not carry sufficient metal for radar detection. Because of the seizure of a mini-submarine under LTTE construction in Tamil Nadu, the LTTE is planning to purchase a mini-submarine from an Eastern European state. So says the internationally renowned Jane’s World Insurgency and Terrorism Database, Dec. 10, 2004.

Membership and support

At the time of the ceasefire of December 2001, the LTTE had incurred heavy battlefield losses of manpower and weaponry in its offensive campaigns of the previous years, and its fighting cadres had been reduced to about 7,000. Since then, it has succeeded in rebuilding its armed strength through fresh recruitment (including forced recruitment of children) - by late 2003 its fighting cadres had increased to approximately 17,000.

According to intelligence reports, moreover, there has been a process of large-scale replenishment of the LTTE arsenal through the procurement of arms from clandestine markets. At least three shipments of arms supplies to the LTTE have been detected by security forces since early 2002. Although two of these were intercepted and destroyed, a much larger number of such smuggling operations have remained undetected.

Insurgent alliances/Linkages

The LTTE has developed into one of the world’s most organised and effective militant groups with business and political networks spread throughout Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

There is evidence that in the 1990s small numbers were trained in Thailand by former Norwegian naval instructors in underwater sabotage, and in Sudan in the use of the global position system (GPS). South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) has also taught political classes to the LTTE since the mid-1990s.

LTTE cadres are also believed to have been trained to fly ultralights in France and in the UK. Some of the cadres that trained in the UK have been identified as belonging to the Black Tiger Suicide Squad. There are unconfirmed reports that LTTE cadres also engaged in ultralight flying in Switzerland and in Australia.

Their success at building effective lobbying networks in the West throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s suffered setbacks when the US banned their activities in 1999 and the British government included them on the list of proscribed organisations in February/March 2001 under the Terrorism Act (2000). Although proscribed in India, the LTTE still operates there through a number of political and militant groups campaigning for an independent Indian Tamil state.


Sea Tigers

The LTTE has staged a large number of maritime terrorist attacks though its maritime wing. A notable trend-setter among Asian groups, it has built up a sophisticated maritime organisation and, as probably the most formidable, non-state ‘navy’ in the world, operates two distinct maritime wings.

First, the Sea Tigers, an amphibious group of 3,000 to 4,000 members with green (lagoons), brown (territorial) and blue water (international) capabilities. Second, a fleet of LTTE-owned and -operated ocean-going merchant ships, functioning independently of Sea Tigers command, control and communication. While the Sea Tigers engage in maritime terrorism and piracy, the LTTE-owned international fleet of merchant ships engages in the illicit trafficking of arms, human beings and narcotics.

The Sea Tiger organisation has 13 sections:

Sea Battle Regiments

Underwater Demolition Teams

Sea Tiger Strike Groups

Marine Engineering and Boat Building Section

Radar and Telecommunications Unit

Marine Weapons Armoury and Dump Group

Maritime School and Academy

Recruiting Section

Political, Finance and Propaganda Section

Exclusive Economic Zone-Marine Logistics Support Team (EEZ-MLST)

Recce Team and Intelligence Section

Welfare Section


There are three other sections that work closely with the Sea Tigers. They are the women’s organisation (about 30 per cent of the Sea Tigers are women), naval intelligence organisation (operating under the head of military intelligence) and the Black Tiger organisation (suicide operations).

LTTE Merchant Fleet

The LTTE’s fleet of ocean-going merchant ships operates independently of the Sea Tigers. The fleet of two dozen ships, managed through LTTE shell companies, has a global reach. The ships flying the flags of Panama, Honduras, Liberia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and New Zealand are crewed by Sri Lankan Tamil and foreign crews. About 90 per cent of the time these ships transport general cargo such as rice, flour, sugar, cement, fertiliser and timber. The transportation of this legitimate commercial cargo provides cover for transport of arms, ammunition, explosives and Dual-Use Technologies (DUTs).

Although the primary mission of the merchant vessels is to maintain the critical lifeline for sustaining the LTTE domestic campaign, the international operation of a clandestine fleet contributes to the highly charged international security environment. The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) in India, responsible for investigating the LTTE assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, claimed that LTTE ships engaged in trafficking narcotics. Referring to LTTE’s head of shipping operations Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran, alias Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP, the CBI Superintendent of Police Thyagrajan said: "KP was very rich, but not rich enough to finance the LTTE as well as give it arms and ammunition. So, to generate extra money he took to smuggling drugs in a big way and used his shipping company as cover for drug and arms trans-shipments." Although Tamil drug couriers with links to the LTTE have been arrested worldwide, no LTTE ships plying the narcotics routes have been searched.

Sea Tigers

In confrontations, the Sea Tigers have destroyed about a third to a half of the Sri Lanka Navy’s coastal patrol craft, fast attack craft, ocean patrol vessels and fast gunboats. The Sea Tigers also sank Sri Lanka’s largest warship, Sagarawardana, in a wolf-pack suicide operation, and captured its commander. In addition to conducting frequent operations in northern waters, the Sea Tigers launched a failed long-range suicide operation to destroy a cargo vessel transporting Israeli Kfir fighters in the Colombo port.

Other than waging a sustained campaign of maritime guerrilla warfare against the Sri Lanka Navy, and maritime terrorism against civilian-owned and -operated fishing vessels, the Sea Tigers also engage in piracy against foreign-owned and -operated commercial vessels. The ships of various flag states attacked include Irish Mona (August 1995), Princess Wave (August 1996), Athena (May 1997), Misen (July 1997), Morong Bong (July 1997), Cordiality (Sept. 1997) and Princess Kash (August 1998).

The Sea Tigers also play a critical role transporting LTTE cadres and supplies to support land operations. In addition, their Exclusive Economic Zone-Marine Logistics Support Team (EEZ-MLST) meets the LTTE ocean-going merchant vessels at the edge of Sri Lankan territorial waters and transports internationally procured armaments and other cargo ashore.


A very important feature of the LTTE training curriculum is the incorporation of lessons learnt from past battles. After the LTTE lost over 500 cadres in the Elephant Pass camp attack in 1991, the self-criticism that followed set the tone for the establishment of special reconnaissance groups. The LTTE reconnaissance groups mount surveillance on military targets over long periods. Often, the LTTE map and models department makes either scale or real life models of camps or other military installations and LTTE cadres train on them. LTTE successes are largely attributed to qualities of leadership, physical and psychological-war training and use of state-of-the-art communication equipment for controlling the battle.

Foreign bases/Supply lines

There is a mass of evidence which indicates that the LTTE campaign is supported by worldwide fund-raising through a wide variety of activities. These include the receipt of donations (individuals, private organisations and, on occasion, official agencies), extortion from captive/pliant Tamil communities in Sri Lanka and abroad, the smuggling of narcotics and weapons, and the forgery of currency, credit cards and travel documents. Its income has been invested in legitimate enterprises of trade, commerce and industry to the extent that illegal sources of income may no longer be essential to sustain the movement. Indian intelligence services have unearthed evidence suggested that the LTTE has maintained links with a number of groups in the subcontinent, and has served as an intermediary in transactions between these groups and those outside the region. The legitimate shipping operations of the LTTE, who command a fleet of at least 20 merchant vessel, are said to facilitate such activities, sometimes on a transcontinental scale.

The Tamil network has facilitated the purchase of weapons from private arms dealers and governments using false end-user certificates. Explosives, weapons and other supplies have mostly come from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, just 22 miles away and a 45-minute cruise by speedboat. The Sri Lankan Navy has intercepted only a fraction of the LTTE’s incoming arsenal. The LTTE procurement, narcotics and shipping networks remain unknown, although ships frequently move between Turkey/Ukraine and Myanmar/Thailand via Mullaittivu in northern Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is known to have purchased heavy artillery (130 mm artillery guns) of Chinese and Russian origin from an unknown supplier. It has procured multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs) through its international network. The first serious interest within the LTTE to procure MBRLs came in the mid-1990s when one of its European offices tried to purchase the missiles from Belgrade.

During peace negotiations in November 1994, the Tamils built an extraordinary fighting capability through the acquisition of 60 tonnes of high explosives from the Rubezone Chemical plant in Ukraine; microlights, fixed wing aircraft and mini-helicopter from Australia; and surface-to-air-missiles from Bulgaria.


There are few extremist group in the world with a stand-off capability equal to that of the LTTE. As well as an abundance of Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher (RPGs), armour piercing Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LAWs) and Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), the LTTE’s high and low trajectory weapons include mortars, artillery and, multi-barrel rocket launchers. This stand off capability has enabled the LTTE to hold ground and fight like a conventional force.

Tiger Aircraft

When the LTTE first developed its heavy weapon capability, the Sri Lankan military was sceptical of its ability to use, maintain and replenish the equipment. By placing the artillery guns and the MBRLs under the engineering regiment, the LTTE went some way to ensuring the best possible maintenance and service.

The LTTE’s inventory is also known to contain:

One T-55 captured from the Sri Lankan military when the LTTE attacked the army-navy complex in Poonaryn in 1993. The tank, usually positioned in the northern coastal area, fires at Sri Lankan naval craft operating in coastal regions;

50 tonnes of TNT and 10 tonnes of RDX (procured from the Rubezone Chemical Plant in Ukraine in 1994 by providing false end-user certificates);

Approximately 10,000 automatic weapons from the Sri Lankan and Indian armed forces, as well as from rival Tamil groups;

Long-range artillery has been acquired from strikes on Sri Lankan military camps from 1993 onwards, including one army tank and at least four high-speed water jet boats;

A fleet of between 500 to 1,000 fibreglass boats and between six and 10 mirage class boats;

50 to 100 frogman kits and five to 10 underwater scooters;

Although not used in the past, the LTTE has five microlight plane kits and at least five gliders.

The LTTE emphasises the improvisation of technology to enhance their military capability. Suicide bomb technology has undergone unprecedented innovation under the guidance of the LTTE. In 1996, at least 125 suicide bomb kits were believed to be in the possession of the LTTE.

An explosive-laden light aircraft is in development. Intended to accurately strike a political, military or economic target aided by a global positioning system, it does not carry sufficient metal for radar detection. Because of the seizure of a mini-submarine under LTTE construction in Tamil Nadu, the LTTE is planning to purchase a mini-submarine from an Eastern European state.

Sea Tigers: Inventory

By 1995 Sea Tiger dockyards had manufactured four types of fibreglass craft, and there are a number of variants of these prototypes:

the 45 kt Thrikka, with four crew a single machine gun and used for deploying frogmen;

the 10 kt Sudai, manned by a crew of six, armed with a single machine-gun and used for attacks against naval craft;

the 45 kt Muraj, with 10 crew and three machine guns, used for attacks against naval craft, logistics and for landing attack teams;

the two-man Idayan, a 45 kt suicide craft fitted with explosives that detonate on impact with the target.

The MLST is a fleet of Mirage-class, 50 ft-long and 16 ft-wide, fibreglass vessels with state-of-the-art communications gear. Each vessel, powered by four 250 hp engines, is armed with 50-calibre guns, GPMGs and marine weapons. The sea battle regiments supported by suicide boats provide added protection to the MLST as well as to the LTTE merchant ships.

The Sea Tigers are highly innovative. In addition to manufacturing floating mines and underwater IEDs they produced a mini-submarine, which was seized by the Indian authorities. By late 2001, the Sea Tigers were experimenting with a human suicide torpedo.

Sources of weapons/Munitions/Equipment

During the past decade the LTTE has transported consignments of weapons from Bulgaria (SA 14, LAW), Ukraine (50 tonnes of TNT and 10 tonnes of RDX), Cyprus (RPGs), Cambodia (small arms), Thailand (small arms), Myanmar (small arms) and Croatia (32,400 mortars). The amount of explosives and mortars transported by the LTTE remains the largest quantity of armaments ever transported by a guerrilla and terrorist group. Most armaments have been obtained by using forged or adapted end-user certificates.

Similarly, the LTTE procured DUTs from Malaysia (diving gear, speed boats, outboard motors), Singapore (communication equipment, GPS, chemicals), Australia (light aircraft, gliders), Denmark (sea scooters), Germany (telescopic sights) and the UK (microfilming and communication equipment). When confronted, these merchant vessels have responded by firing heavy weapons. When the vessels are laden with lethal cargo they are wired to detonate upon successful interdiction.

Towards the late 1990s and in early 2000, fearing that LTTE-owned ships would be monitored, the LTTE chartered a number of vessels to transport military goods. Although LTTE procurement officers have been active in Africa and in South and Central America, there is very little intelligence of the LTTE procurement and shipping activities in these regions. LTTE ships cross both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Furthermore, LTTE ships have been transporting Asian migrants to Africa and Europe. The ships have also been used to transport leaders and cadres of the LTTE. Some southeast Asian intelligence agencies believe that the LTTE has hijacked foreign vessels, but the affected governments have failed to present conclusive evidence implicating the LTTE. Since the LTTE has demonstrated quite regularly its mastery of phantom shipping - changing the ship’s name and appearance - it is likely that it is also engaged in maritime crime even outside Sri Lankan waters.

Level of threat

The LTTE is a role model and a trend-setter for existing and emerging insurgent groups in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. The international security and intelligence community generally assesses the LTTE as the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation. It is the only organisation to have assassinated two heads of government and develop a guerrilla navy capable of checkmating a powerful conventional navy commanded by British and US-trained officers.

The LTTE threat to Sri Lankan and Indian security has been maintained throughout the ceasefire process commenced in December 2002. It is likely to remain a formidable force until the government of Sri Lanka either develops force structures sufficient to destroy them militarily or a negotiated settlement is reached paving the way for the entry of the LTTE into the legitimate political arena.

Despite numerous military reversals, the LTTE has achieved a string of stunning successes. Although its domestic infrastructure for raising funds and generating recruits has dwindled in scope, international support engendered by spectacular military strikes and the creation of over half a million displaced persons has helped the LTTE to recover tactically and strategically.

Recoveries of weaponry achieved by overrunning Sri Lankan military camps and acquisitions through international procurement have enabled the LTTE to maintain a large reserve of weapons and ammunition. Regardless of tight security, the LTTE has been successful in overrunning highly fortified camps, infiltrating Colombo, carrying out bomb attacks and in assassinations of high-profile political figures from the Sri Lankan mainstream.

It maintains a very high level of readiness through effective training, state-of-the-art equipment and, for a guerrilla force, unparalleled battle control technology. Within the space of a few hours the LTTE has the ability to concentrate a force of 5,000 cadres to strike a military facility anywhere in northeastern Sri Lanka or to launch long-range deep-penetration operations, ranging from suicide/commando style attacks to bombings in the capital.

A spate of successes by the LTTE in 2000-01, came as a direct result of the group’s ability to build a formidable heavy weapons capability. In close-quarters engagements, the LTTE units that confront the Sri Lankan military are better armed and better trained in the use of heavy weapons. The Sri Lankan military establishment and the intelligence community have failed to assess, forecast and respond to this growing threat.


Powered By -

Produced by Upali Group of Companies