Sri Lanka Armed Forces: Wikis


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Sri Lanka Armed Forces
Coat of arms of Sri Lanka.svg
Service branches National Flag of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Army
Naval Ensign of the Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Navy
Sri Lanka Air Force Ensign Sri Lanka Air Force
Commander-in-Chief President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Minister of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka
Military age 18-49 years of age (2001)
Available for
military service
4,933,217 (2005 est.) males, age 15–49,
5,153,597 females, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
3,789,627 males, age 15–49,
4,281,043 females, age 15–49
Reaching military
age annually
Males: 174,049
Females: 167,201 (2005 est.)
Active personnel 157,900 (ranked 20th)
Reserve personnel 50,000 volunteer reserve
Budget FY 2004 - ranked 55th
US $ 1.48 billion (2008 est.)
Percent of GDP 5% (2008 est.)

The Sri Lanka Armed Forces is the overall unified military of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka encompassing the Sri Lanka Army, the Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Air Force which comes under preview of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The total strength of the three services numbers around 230,000 active personal who have voluntary joined, since military draft have never been imposed in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Armed Forces are currently in a fully mobilized (including reserves) state due to the Sri Lankan Civil War, which it fought against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers) which is proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries (see list). The Sri Lankan Armed forces have been accused of human rights violations.



Sri Lanka has a long military history going back 2000 years. The roots of the modern Sri Lanka military leads back to the colonial era when Portuguese, Dutch and British established local militias to support their wars against the local Kingdoms. The British created the Ceylon Rifle Regiment during the Kandyan wars, although it had natives in its ranks majority of it was made up of Malays. It was disbanded 1873.

The linage of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces dates back to 1881, when the British creates a volunteer reserve in the island named the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers. Created to supplement the British garrison in Ceylon in the event of an external threat, it gradually increased in size. In 1910 it was renamed the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF) and consisted of several regiments. The CDF mobilized for home defence in World War I and again in World War II when its units were deployed along with allied forces in Asia and Africa. At the end of the war it has grown in size of an independent brigade, but was de-mobilized in 1946 and disbanded in 1949. In 1937 the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force was established (later renamed as the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR)), it mobilized for war in 1939 and was taken into the Royal Navy.

Following establishment of the Dominion of Ceylon with Britain granting Independence in 1948, work began to establish a regular military. The Army Act No. 17 of 1949 which was passed by Parliament on April 11, 1949 and formalized in Gazette Extraordinary No. 10028 of October 10, 1949 marked the creation of the Ceylon Army, as the CDF the CRNVR disbanded to make way for a regular navy when the December 9, 1950 the Royal Ceylon Navy (RCyN) was established with its personal. Final in 1951 as the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF) was established as the youngest of the three forces. From the out set Britain played a significant role in helping the Ceylon government in developing its armed forces.

The growth for the Ceylon Armed Forces were slow due to lack of foreign threat, since Ceylon maintained cordial relations with its powerful neighbor India and the defence treaty with Britain. In the 1950s it was mainly employed in internal security assisting the police. There was an attempted coup in 1962 by a group of reservist, which led to cuts in military spending and the disbandment of several regiments. This together with the lack of an intelligence agency left it ill-prepared for the insurgency launched by the Marxist JVP in April 1971.

The 1971 JVP Insurrection saw Ceylon Armed Forces mobilizing for combat operations for the first time and its size grew rapidly. The insurrection was brought under control in a few months. In 1972 Ceylon became a Republic and the Ceylon Armed Forces became the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

By the early 1980s the Sri Lanka Armed Forces mobilizing again as a new insurgency began by Tamil militant groups in the north of the island. This was the beginning of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The size of the Armed Forces grew at a rapid rate in the 1980s. By the mid 1980s the Armed Forces began launching operations in the like of conventional warfare against the LTTE which had by then became the most powerful of the Tamil militant groups. This led to India intervening by breaching Sri Lankan air space to carry out food drops and shortly afterward the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was sent to Sri Lanka to establish peace.

The military was redistricted to it bases and was soon heavily involved in another insurrection by the JVP in the south of the island from 1987 to 1989. In the north tension increased with the LTTE and the IPKF leading to open war with the two suffering heavy casualties. In 1990 the IPKF pulled out and the war commenced with the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the LTTE.

In 1994 a brief ceasefire came into place and peace talks began. But it broke down when the LTTE attacked several docked naval gunboats. The phase of the war that followed; known as Eelam War III saw a conventional war taking place in the northern and eastern provinces of the island and terrorist attacks in other parts of the country. The Sri Lankan Army began deploying full divisions in offensive operations and Navy and Air Force increased it inventory in orfer to support the army.

In 2002 a new ceasefire was established with Norwegian mediation and Peace talks began. The SLMM was established to monitor the ceasefire and certain progress archived until the LTTE withdrew from the peace talks in 2003. Although the ceasefire continued no peace talks took place till 2005. In the mean time the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) filed a report stating the LTTE had violated the ceasefire 3,471 since the signing of the cease fire which included matters like child recruiting, torture, abduction, firing of weapons, sabotage, carrying of arms in government-held areas, construction of new positions, movement of arms, ammunition and military equipment, families of detainees denied access and the obstruction of truce monitors [1]. However the security forces violated the ceasefire only 162 times.

In April 2006 following the a suicide bomb attack on the Commander of the Army, air strikes began followed by skirmishers, however both the government and the LTTE claimed that the ceasefire was still in place. Offensive by the Armed Forces was launched when the LTTE closed the sluice gates of the Mavil Aru reservoir on July 21 and cut the water supply to 15,000 villages in government controlled areas. This led to several major attacks by the LTTE in the eastern province and the north. The Armed Forces went on the offensive successfully capturing LTTE control areas in the eastern province during 2007.

On the 3 January 2008 the government informed Norway of its decision to quit the ceasefire, with it the ceasefire officially ended on the 16 January 2008, following several bombings in the capital. Along with the ceasefire ended the operations of the SLMM.[2]

During 2008 there were heavy fighting in the northern province where the Sri Lanka Armed Forces launched major offensives and succeeded in capturing LTTE controlled areas of the Mannar District, the Vavuniya District and moving in to the Mullaitivu District and Kilinochchi District. During December 2008, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces were engaged in offensives in all fronts, with heavy fighting around the Kilinochchi town where the LTTE had their headquarters and close to the Mullaitivu town.

In early 2009 the Armed Forces captured in quick succession Kilinochchi town and the strategically impotent Elephant Pass. Thus establishing a land route to the government controlled Jaffna Peninsula which had been supplied by sea and air for over 10 years after its recapture in 1995. Shortly thereafter Mullaitivu town was captured by the 59 Division of the SLA. Boxed into a small land area north of Mullaitivu, the LTTE with its remaining carders and leadership was effectively trapped, with this land mass been slowly reduced until May 2009.

On 19 May 2009, Sri Lanka Armed Forces claimed to have concluded its final battle against the LTTE with the death of several top LTTE leaders, including its head Velupillai Prabhakaran while attempting to flee[3].

On 22 May 2009, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa confirmed that 6,261 personnel of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces had lost their lives and 29,551 were wounded during Eelam War IV since July 2006[4].

The Armed Forces have been accused of human rights violations during the war, particularly during the final stages. The Times alleged that United Nations reports indicate more than 20,000 civilians had died due to attacks carried out by the military.[5] However, the UN disputed these figures but admitted that the death toll was unacceptably high.[6] The Sri Lankan government strongly denied these figures.[7] The Human Rights Watch has also accused the military of "impeding the delivery of human aid" and carrying out indiscriminate attacks against civilians.[8]

Strategic Importance

The posture of the military has been defensive due to the nature of the strategic threats to Sri Lanka. In the short-term, internal security is considered the main threat to the nation's future. In the long-term, the threat is seen as primarily external from current and future superpowers in their rival quests for dominance of the Indian Ocean; at one point these were the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, due to collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the external threats now involve future superpowers India and China. The signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord eased these concerns.[9]

The military of Sri Lanka has received a significant amount of military aid from the People's Republic of China.[10][11] Throughout the period from 2005 onwards, as a symbol of goodwill and cooperation between the two countries in terms of security, China has supplied the Sri Lankan army with Chinese military equipment.[12] Weapons provided by China include small arms, tanks,[13] and howitzers, as well as mobile vehicles. This can be seen as China's attempt to gain leverage against other power blocs, mainly India, within the Indian Ocean.[14]. Sri Lanka also imports high-tech weapon systems from Israel.

Command organization

As head of state, the President of Sri Lanka, is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The National Security Council, chaired by the President is the authority charged with formulating and executing defence policy for the nation. The highest level of military headquarters is the Ministry of Defence, since 1978 except for a few rare occasions the President retained the portfolio defence, thus being the Minister of Defence. The ministry and the armed forces have been controlled by the during these periods by either a Minister of State, Deputy Minister for defence, and of recently the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. Prior to 1978 the Prime Minister held the portfolio of Minister of Defence and External Affairs, and was supported by a Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and External Affairs.

The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the management of the forces, while the planning and execution of combined operations is the responsibility of the Joint Operations Command (JOC). The JOC is headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff who is the most senior officer in the Armed Forces and is an appointment that can be held by an Air Chief Marshal, Admiral, or General. The three services have their own respective professional chiefs: the Commander of the Army, the Commander of the Navy and the Commander of the Air Force, who have much autonomy.

Armed Services



The Sri Lanka Army is the oldest and largest of Sri Lanka's three armed services. Established as the Royal Ceylon Army in 1949, it was renamed when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972. The Army of approximately 200,000 regular and reserve personnel including 17,000 National Guardsmen and is responsible for overseeing land-based military and humanitarian operations.

At present the army has deployed 12 divisions and forming 4 more in while carrying out combat operations. Since 2004 the Sri Lankan Army maintains a battalion and support units for 1000 personal in the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Haiti.


The Sri Lankan Navy is the key maritime division of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and is classed as the most vital defence force of Sri Lanka. It conducts maritime operations at sea for the defence of the Sri Lankan nation and its interests. The professional head of the navy is the Commander of the navy, who exercises his command from the Naval Headquarters in Colombo. Established in 1950 as the Royal Ceylon Navy it was renamed as the Sri Lanka Navy in 1972.

In recent years it had played a key role it the Sri Lankan civil war, conducting deep sea, costal & inshore patrols, amphibious and supply operations. The navy has its own elite naval special forces unit, the Special Boat Squadron.

Air Force

The Sri Lanka Air Force is the aerial defense division and the youngest of the Sri Lankan Tri Forces. Founded in 1951 as the Royal Ceylon Air Force, it relied on the British Royal Air Force for its earliest equipment, training, and leadership. The Air Force is playing a major role in the ongoing war against Tamil separatists. Although Sri Lanka is only a small island state, its Air Force has proven highly capable and efficient. In recent times the air force has expanded to specialize mainly in providing air-support to ground forces and landing troops and carrying airstrikes on rebel held areas in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

Paramilitary Forces

There are two official Paramilitary Forces under the command of the Ministry of Defence:

See also Paramilitary groups of Sri Lanka


Creation of a Coast Guard

Despite being an island and having a substantial length of coastline, Sri Lanka does not have a Coast Guard, relying on the Sri Lanka Navy to carry out such duties. However, discussions are underway with respect to establishing a coast guard service.[17]

On 9 July 2009 the Sri Lankan parliament passed a bill to set up a Coast Guard Department under the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickemanayake, introducing the Bill, saying that "there was an urgent need for such a department to stop illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, taking place in the Sri Lankan waters". The bill passed while amendments were made as the new Department will have the job of assisting the Sri Lankan Navy to prevent illegal emigration/immigration activities, drug trafficking, contraband and weapons.[18]


Today the training of all armed services are carried out in Sri Lanka. With a Defence University, a Staff College, three Military Academies for the three armed services and many specialized training schools and centers members of the Sri Lanka armed forces has a high level training and professionalism.

The Sri Lankan military has received specialized training assistance from other nations such as Pakistan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, the United States, India, and South Africa.[9]

Referring to the overseas military training given to Sri Lanka, the U.S. government's contribution at a higher level. The Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs helping to standardizing and strengthening the country's military greatly.[19]


Although much of the current military hardware used by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces is acquired from China, Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia, and the United States indigenous weapon systems have been developed and produces within Sri Lanka to suit its requirements. Most of these have been produced by the armed forces. Following are military hardware design and development in the country:

Awards & Decorations

The most prestigious decoration is Parama Weera Vibhushanaya which is awarded to officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen who have shown individual gallantry in the face of danger and risk their own lives to save the lives of their comrades. The armed forces especially the Army awards campaign medals for soldiers that have taken part in successful, very high-risk operations such as Operation Riviresa.

See also


  1. ^ Geneva talks must focus on SLMM rulings on violations
  2. ^ CFA, SLMM cease to operate by Jan 16,
  3. ^ The Last Day of Prabhakaran, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, Daily Mirror
  4. ^ Reuters article citing Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
  5. ^ Philp, Catherine (2009-05-29). "The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers". The Times. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  6. ^ "Ban denies UN cover-up of Sri Lanka death toll". Taipei Times. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  7. ^ "Sri Lanka rejects deaths report". BBC. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. ^ "Sri Lanka: Government Abuses Intensify". Human Rights Watch. 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  10. ^ 中国制造坦克成"斯里兰卡"政府军开路先锋!
  11. ^ 印学者:中国幕后军援斯里兰卡政府打内战
  12. ^ 中国的斯里兰卡战役 (原创军贴)
  13. ^ 中国产坦克成斯里兰卡政府军的开路先锋
  14. ^ 灭猛虎急先锋,中国坦克在斯里兰卡纵横驰骋
  15. ^ Task Force, Sri Lanka Police Service
  16. ^ Home Guard Service, Ministry of Defence
  17. ^ Sri Lanka News | Online edition of Daily News - Lakehouse Newspapers
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Sri Lanka: Security Assistance". U.S. Department of State. July 12, 2007. 
  20. ^ Nonis, Anton (2004-04-25). "The evolution of the indigenous armoured vehicle: From Unicorn to Unibuffel". The Sunday Observer. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 

External links


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