Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sri Lanka Navy turned 57 yesterday

The Navy, the first line of defence celebrated its 57th anniversary yesterday, becoming a Blue Water Navy.

The naval legacy began in Sri Lanka during British colonial period. The Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF) was established in 1937 and after World War II was absorbed into the Royal Navy as the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR).

After independence, a nucleus of 100 officers and men formed the Regular Navy. The Navy Act was enacted and the Royal Ceylon Navy was renamed as “The Sri Lanka Navy” on December 9, 1950.

Navy Spokesman Commander D. K. P. Dassanayake asserted that the Navy was largely a ceremonial outfit till mid 1980s. That changed beginning with Sea Tiger movements.

“Since the LTTE sea Tiger activities began the role of sailors changed in order to meet the challenges at sea. The LTTE began their activities as small boat movements across the Palk Straits and they gradually developed a sea wing, comprising armed craft, logistic craft and a few merchant vessels which engaged in illegal maritime activities,” Commander Dassanayake said.

It took time to comprehend the gravity of Sea Tiger operations and the significance of naval operations to combat such terrorism. “Despite naval fleets destroying many LTTE armed craft during sea battles the Tigers always had several craft restored and ready to be launched for another attack,” he said.

Pointing at the recent naval operations, he said there were remarkable changes in the entire operational aspect and a sophistication of naval maritime dominance around the country and also out in the deep seas.

The perceived the significance of destroying the LTTE’s backbone by effectively targeting its international supply line. President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Commander-in-Chief has given his fullest support to Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda for these steps.

The sailors did not take long to tackle the ground situation and the LTTE tactics to smuggle arms and weapons. While the Tigers kept attacking on the ground, the Navy was aware that the key element was gaining the upper hand at sea.

Tigers’ maritime routes and the processes of loading and unloading arms and weapons out in the deep seas were identified by the Navy.

A major breakthrough was made after apprehending multi-day fishing trawlers engaged in sea transport of items to the final destination after being unloaded from a ship out in the deep seas. When this operation was identified through naval intelligence, it was a matter of delivering a lethal blow to the Tigers.

The Navy had developed its own naval intelligence wing to destroy the Sea Tiger network. During the last two years eight Tiger merchant vessels were destroyed in addition to the large number of Tiger armed craft and 11 multi day fishing trawlers.

The use of naval intelligence, utilisation of limited resources effectively, a sound leadership and planning can be taken as the key to all the successes the Navy saw during the past two years.

The naval craft operating in the deep sea observed LTTE vessels at locations where the Tigers never expected them to be found. The LTTE never expected the naval units to go that far and destroy their vessels transporting weapons.

The highlight of its fight against the LTTE was destroying three LTTE ships at a distance of 2800 Nm South East of Hambantota on September 10 and 11, 2007. With the destruction of these three vessels, the Navy prevented the Tigers from receiving their military supplies and other needs for war.

This destruction crippled the Tigers’ international maritime network which was actively engaged in smuggling arms and ammunition for LTTE.

When the Security Forces launched clearing operations in the East on a humanitarian mission with the intention of liberating the civilians from the Tiger grip, it is the Navy that protected the sea front by not allowing the Tigers to bring in reinforcements and logistics supplies.

Tigers had no way of withdrawing via sea routes and as a result they withdrew through dense jungles where they were prone to attacks by the ground Forces.

The navy also engaged in humanitarian missions apart from sea line protection. “In addition to the operational tasks, the Navy undertook a number of humanitarian missions during the Eastern humanitarian operation.

The lifeline between the North and East was kept intact by naval fleet units. Following the closure of the A-9 highway, sea transportation of logistics and personnel was taken over by the Navy at the initial stages and security was provided to all the vessels,” Commander Dassanayake remarked. It facilitates the transport of civilians between Jaffna and Trincomalee.

The Navy has entered the record books by being the only fighting Navy which destroyed eight floating warehouses containing arms and ammunition. The Navy also had proved by their successful operations that its is one of the powerful navies around the world.

The term “Blue Water Navy” came into use with the destruction of many Tiger vessels by the Navy in the deep seas. Even though the Navy was termed a “Brown Water Navy”, she has performed operationally as a Blue Water Navy.

“Being an island nation we need a Navy that can expand into all three dimensions if we are to achieve a distinguished victory over the enemy. The trend is set and what is left is to continue it. The Sri Lanka Navy and its men have shown today that nothing is impossible if correct leadership and guidance are available,” he observed.

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