‘Pacific Air Lift Rally 2011’ a sign of post-war stability



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SLAF Chief


By Shamindra Ferdinando


A five-day ‘Pacific Air Lift Rally 2011’ is underway in Sri Lanka with the participation of the US as part of its overall efforts to enhance co-operation among countries in the Pacific region.


Such an exercise wouldn’t have been contemplated during the conflict due to LTTE threats.


A Sri Lankan military official yesterday told The Island that the joint exercise was a sign of post-war stability in spite of various interested parties seeking to undermine the country. The exercise got underway yesterday (22) with representatives from 20 countries, including India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore moving to Ratmalana and Ampara air bases, while 42 officers gathered at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel for a written exercise.


This is the largest such exercise carried out in Sri Lanka. Interestingly, it takes place in the wake of the recent controversy over US fighter jets launched from aircraft carriers, violating Sri Lankan air space, an allegation which was later found to be baseless.


Responding to a query by The Island, SLAF spokesman Group Captain Andrew Wijesuriya said that the highlight of the exercise would be a cargo drop over Ampara district tomorrow, (Aug. 24) involving C-130s engaged in the ‘operation.’ This will take place between 10 am and 4 p.m.


On the following day, SLAF and US aircraft will carry out a paratroop drop over Ratmalana between 2 p.m and 4.30 pm.


Wijesuriya said that about 150 SLAF personnel were involved in the exercise aimed at preparing regional air forces to meet the challenging task of disaster relief.


The C 130 group comprises three US aircraft and one each from Sri Lanka, Australia and Malaysia. All six aircraft are based at Ratmalana, the main support base during the conflict.


Government sources told The Island that in spite of the US declining to participate at a recent Defence Ministry symposium to share Sri Lanka’s experience in defeating the LTTE, there hadn’t been a breakdown in relations with the US Pacific Command recently hosting a joint programme with the SLN to enhance cooperation. Australia, too, shunned the Defence Ministry symposium, along with the UK.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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