Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's a Bird, It's a Plane....

Well, actually it's this 'flying' snail....

But this is a plane.

Negombo is close to the international airport, which also serves as the main air base in Sri Lanka. (There are a total of twenty air bases throughout this small island.) We usually see military planes flying overhead once a day. But yesterday I went to a wedding that was further inland, and they were flying overhead, on average, once per hour.

Sri Lanka's air force is relatively young. It was founded in 1951 as the Royal Ceylon Air Force, and is currently known as the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF). It has just under thirty thousand members, both in regular service and in the reserves, and one hundred sixty aircraft. Women have been admitted to all branches of the air force (except as pilots) since 1972, including the regiment and air force police, and can become officers.

The SLAF played a major role in the country's twenty-six year civil war which killed between eighty and one hundred thousand people. I am not going to go into the politics of the whole thing, for a number of reasons, but the SLAF was responsible for providing air support to government ground forces, troop landing, and air strikes.

While the SLAF has been involved in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti since 2004 and was part of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, events of April of this year were historic for the organization. When the country of Nepal suffered massive earthquakes, the SLAF was used for the first time in a rescue mission to a foreign country, where it transported medical and other personnel and aid supplies for disaster relief.