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Sri Lanka Air Force plans new aircraft acquisitions

A Bell 212 and three Bell 412EP helicopters of the Sri Lanka Air Force's No 4 (VVIP/VIP) Helicopter Squadron fly over Colombo on 4 February 2024. Sri Lanka is planning to induct new helicopters to bolster its rotary-wing capabilities. (Pushpa Kumara/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The head of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) has announced the launch of several programmes to induct new aircraft and technologies.

Air Marshal R A Udeni P Rajapaksa, Commander of the SLAF, said during a press conference on 14 February that the SLAF is moving away from its erstwhile development of major combat capabilities to focus on maritime surveillance, transport, and territorial defence.

“We do not intend to develop a huge fighting force. We need to protect our land, and [consequently], we need to have maritime domain awareness. Peace in the Indian Ocean is one of the key elements for the sustainable development of our country… Therefore, we are looking at acquisitions falling in line with [these requirements],” he said.

“We are [also] discussing with certain other countries [about the possible acquisition] of … helicopters and also some training aircraft,” Air Mshl Rajapaksa added.

The SLAF is slated to receive two maritime patrol aircraft. These include a Beechcraft King Air 350 as a gift from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and a new Beechcraft King Air 360ER Extended Range (B300) aircraft being procured from the US government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

In a May 2023 statement, the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat said Australia will provide sustainment support for the King Air 350 (RAAF registration A32-673) “for a period of 12 months, after which sustainment will become the sole responsibility of the Sri Lanka[n] government”.

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