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Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Sri Lanka


Armed Forces: Total strength about 48,000 personnel, including reservists on active duty. President serves as commander in chief and defense minister. Minister of national security reports to president, serves as deputy defense minister, presides over Joint Operations Command, which exercises overall responsibility for government counterinsurgency and counterterrorist effort. Chain of command extends downward to individual service commanders, deputy commanders, and chiefs of staff.

Army: Total strength including reservists on active duty, up to 40,000 personnel. Major tactical units five infantry brigade-sized task forces, each with three battalions. Other formations include one or two battalion-sized reconnaissance regiments, plus artillery, engineer, signals, and logistical units. In 1988 army reorganized territorially with individual battalions assigned to each of twenty-one sectors, corresponding generally to administrative districts; sectors grouped into two area commands: Division One for southern half of country, Division Two for northern half. Following Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987, army deployed against Tamil insurgents in Mannar and Vavuniya Districts, Northern Province, and against JVP terrorists in Southern Province. Military equipment includes small arms of Chinese, Singapore, Pakistani, and Western origin; armored cars and armored personnel carriers of British, South African, and domestic manufacture; mortars and light-to-medium- artillery pieces from Yugoslavia, Pakistan, and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Navy: Total strength, including reservists on active duty, about 4,000 to 6,000 personnel. Service organized administratively into three naval area commands: Northern, Eastern, and Western (a fourth, Southern, to be established), with main naval base at Trincomalee, smaller installations at Karainagar, Tangalla, and Kalpitiya, major facility under construction at Galle. In 1988 principal naval mission patrol of "surveillance zone" in Palk Strait to prevent gun-running by Tamil insurgents between India and Sri Lanka; other naval tasks include enforcement of Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone. Total inventory fifty-five vessels; major surface combatants six command ships (used as tenders for patrol vessels in "surveillance zone"); other ships include Cougar patrol craft and amphibious vessels from Britain, Dvora and Super Dvora craft from Israel, plus locally manufactured and older patrol boats from China and the Soviet Union; additional ships under construction in Republic of Korea (South Korea).

Air Force: Total strength, including reservists on active duty, about 3,700 personnel deployed at 3 large and 9 smaller airbases countrywide. Principal air force missions tactical air support for ground operations, military airlift, and medical evacuation. Organization and inventory include one counterinsurgency squadron with Italian SIAI Marchetti SF-260TP light trainer aircraft, one helicopter squadron with United States Bell models 212, 412, and Jet Ranger, and French SA-365 Dauphin-IIs rotary wing aircraft; one transport squadron with Chinese Yun-8 and Yun-12 turboprops, plus assorted older aircraft, including United States DC-3s (C-47s) and an Indian HS748 ; and one trainer squadron of light aircraft, including United States Cessnas.

Paramilitary Forces: Sri Lankan National Police, total strength 21,000 to 28,000 personnel, organized territorially into three "ranges," subdivided into divisions, districts, and police stations; includes National Intelligence Bureau and Police Special Force (formerly Special Task Force), latter comprising 1,100 personnel organized into one oversize battalion of seven companies, with units deployed against JVP terrorists in Southern Province, or serving in rotation as presidential security guard.

Foreign Military Presence: Prior to Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987, small number of Pakistani, Israeli, and retired British military advisers. Since August 1987 Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF), reported strength 70,000 personnel, organized into 15 brigades, plus supporting units, deployed against Tamil insurgents in Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Defense Expenditures: Increased from less than 1 percent of GDP in early 1980s to over 5 percent in 1987 because of Tamil insurgency, but levelled off following Indo-Sri Lankan Accord. In 1987 expenditures, including supplemental appropriations, amounted to US$408 million or about 5.4 percent of GDP. Projected defense expenditures for 1988 expected to decline somewhat to US$340 million.

Internal Security: Insurgent movement known generically as Tamil Tigers, active since about 1975, fighting for independent state in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka; total estimated strength 5,000 combatants; most prominent insurgent group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); other groups include People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOT or PLOTE), Eelam People's Revolutionary Organization of Students (EPROS), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF). Separate terrorist movement, known as JVP, composed of Sinhalese chauvinists, estimated strength several hundred, opposed to Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, active in Southern Province.

Data as of October 1988

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Sri Lanka Table of Contents