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F7 jet squadron celebrates 30-year service to nation

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…Over 600 strikes during 2006-2009 war

The No 5 Jet Squadron that carried over 600 air sorties celebrates its 30th anniversary today (Feb 1). The SLAF acquired Chinese jets in the wake of Eelam War II. SLAF headquarters yesterday (31) issued the following statement on the No 5 squadron: The No 5 was formed with the induction of two new FT-7 jet trainers based at Katunayake under the command of Sqn Ldr H.D. Abeywickrema. At the same year the fleet was enhanced by further acquisition a FT-7 trainer and four F-7 “Airguard” day fighters. These were the first jet aircraft added to the SLAF’s inventory since the retirement of Mig-17s and Jet provost T-Mk-51s which were used from 1970s. F-7BS was mainly designated for Battlefield Air Support for ground operations, Air Interception, Air Interdiction and Armed Reconnaissance roles.

“Sqn Ldr P Gunasinghe, Flt Lt SK Pathirana, Flt Lt IJI Wijetilleke and Flt Lt S Hendawitharane were first pilots in SLAF history to break the speed of sound and consider as the pioneers in the supersonic fighter age. The squadron’s initial operations commenced from SLAF Base Katunayake but was soon moved to SLAF China Bay in 1994 as measure of reducing the response time to act promptly for operational requirements. However, due to security concerns it was later resifted to its home Base Katunayake in 1996.

“As an extent of enhancing the No 5 Fighter Squadron’s Air Interdiction and specialized low level strike capability, six Russian MiG-27 and one MiG 23UB trainer were inducted to the squadron in 2000.

“2007 was a remarkable year to SLAF and to No 5 Fighter Squadron in terms of fleet enhancement. Modern F-7 GS which is the advanced version of F-7 BS in relation to avionics including an AI Radar, sophisticated weapons delivery system with Air to Air missile strike capability and user-friendly glass cockpit was inducted. 

“Much needed and well maintained SLAF air superiority over the nation was threatened with the emergence of LTTE air wing followed by the first air space intrusion in 26 March 2007. Newly introduced F-7 ‘Air guard’ fighter was called upon with expectations to live up to its literal reputation, being the first supersonic interceptor with air to air strike capability with PL-5E passive IR guided air to air missiles and 30mm cannon guns in its arsenal.

” In the course of the squadrons remarkable trail it has been commanded by ten Commanding Officers. Shouldering its responsibility as the cradle of fighter pilots the squadron has produced more than 25 pilots who were the front-line fighters to face the brutal enemy counter attacks, delivering tons of explosives to weaken the enemies’ moral to fight back in the prolonged Eelam war.

“No 5 Squadron has contributed its effort promptly and effectively whenever it was called upon with distinction and honour performing multitude Counter Air and Counter Surface Force Operations conducting an excess of 600 flying sorties during the humanitarian operation. The results of these efforts were clearly manifested in the nation’s ultimate victory over terrorism.

No 5 fighter Squadron continue to render its service to the nation as the leading air defence platform guarding the skies of our mother land and will continue to prosper in future with the newest updates and highly trained crew.”

 



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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