First post-war military exercise: Blue vs Red


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Combined security forces will launch a nine-day joint exercise in Vanni west on Nov. 21 to test battle preparedness of troops.

The first ever joint field exercise in the post-LTTE era will involve the Special Forces and Commando Brigades as well as SLAF and SLN elements.

Director General General Staff (DGGS) Military spokesman Maj. General Ubaya Medawala said that the exercise would be conducted on what he called an amphibious setting on the north-western coast.

"There’ll be a sea lift involving several craft," he said adding that the landing would take place under Commander Amphibious Task Force.

In a brief interview with The Island at the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) on Sunday (Nov. 14), Maj. Gen. Medawala said that large scale combined training exercises would be necessary to test officers and men at all levels. Responding to a query, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 53 Division emphasised that there wouldn’t be any reference to the Eelam war IV in ‘Exercise-Cormorants Strike’. "We [the security forces] will be operating from ‘Blueland’ against an enemy entrenched in Redland. Both Blue and Red forces comprise Special Forces and Commandos with the Blue element having the backing of the Navy and the SLAF," Maj. Gen. Medawala said.

The twice-put off training exercise was scheduled to be held in the Vanni east, where the Army’s 58 and 53 Divisions finished off the LTTE in the third week of May last year. He said a large scale exercise involving several thousands of men and officers, aircraft, naval vessels and ground vehicles would have disturbed the resettlement programme.

The Military spokesman said that the meticulously planned exercise would be monitored at different levels to ensure that all elements achieve operational objectives and to identify capabilities as well as limitations.

He said that the Blue force would comprise about 2,500 personnel, including 1,600 Special Forces and Commandos. Responding to another query, he said the end of the war would give security forces an ideal opportunity to train and be prepared to face any eventuality.

Military sources told The Island that the initial stage of ‘Cormorants Strike’ somewhat resembled what had been envisaged during the final phase of the offensive against the LTTE on the Mullaitivu front.

Interestingly, at the last phase of the offensive, the military mulled an amphibious assault on the Mullaitivu beaches involving an attacking force of 800 Special Forces and Commandos in support of the ground troops. The Sri Lanka Navy had readied 80 boats to carry ten fully equipped troops each. Alongside them 80 ‘Arrow’ boats, each mounted with three weapons manned by the Special Boat Squadron and the Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) were to move on to the beach. An official said that at the point of time, the military planned the amphibious assault the enemy had controlled a four km stretch of coast and fiercely resisted the ground advance. Although the plan had received the approval of the government, it was never implemented due to difference of opinion at a certain level, sources said.

Sources said had the military succeeded in inducting over a battalion of troops, the battle wouldn’t have lasted till the third week of May 2009 and the circumstances, under which the LTTE was decimated would have been different.

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