SLAF’s recent performance against the Zlins
When investigating the SLAF, our particular attention fell on the recent attack by the Zlin-143s in Colombo. This being the most discussed issue against the SLAF in recent times, we decided to inquire into the reasons why an ‘appropriate’ response was not made to engaging the Zlins.
We were assured by sources within the SLAF that MI-24 gunships were airborne and waiting in an undisclosed location over Kilinochchi and that F-7s were also dispatched to engage the Zlins. But we discovered that the ‘aerial route’ the SLAF say its jets took and its helicopter gunships were waiting on to intercepting the Zlins were different to the one the 2 Zlins had taken.
Based on our investigations (see some details below), we must conclude that it was a wonder that SLAF pilots downed a Zlin speaking volumes for their quality. During a few previous Zlin attacks, including the one on Vavuniya, three planes were observed on the radar screen but during the last attack on Colombo, only two had popped up on the screen. The 3rd plane, sources say, was acting as a guide.
After a careful investigation we have drawn the following conclusions:
1. SLAF fighter pilots and helicopter gunship pilots are adequately motivated to destroy the threat (if there is an actual threat) posed by the Zlins. SLAF sources indicated they keep an F-7 pilot team ready at a dedicated barrack all night to counter the threat. We will accept this explanation.
2. There seems to be a huge mis-match between the high-tech of the SLAF and the low-tech of the LTTE.
3. The F-7s in particular cannot get a radar lock without Beyond Visual Range target-locking systems. The current radar systems cannot lock on the target because the F-7s move at a faster pace and higher altitude compared to the Zlins. The slow, low-flying planes can easily get away from the existing target-locking systems of the F-7s. If the downing of the Zlins is an absolute must, we recommend SLAF seeking immediate assistance from the Indian Air Force who have upgraded their MIG-29s with BVR.
4. Although a few MI-24s have been equipped with radar, radar alone is inadequate in guiding an attack helicopter towards the Zlins in the dead of the night. The radar on board the MIs had not tracked the Zlins successfully. Only the ground-based radar had been able to observe the planes bobbing up and down. The MIs cannot pursue the Zlins with instructions from the ground-based radar alone.
5. Tigers have used an air burst bomb on the power plant, which a Navy video of the bombing clearly shows. This means that they have either improved on their home-made bomb or obtained new bombs. But one must keep in mind that even mortar bombs can be set to explode several meters above ground.
6. There is no evidence of the Zlins being equipped with radar deflation systems, although Radar being a simple radio wave, can be countered with another opposite frequency. Radar absorbing paint, however, is a more likely option. The paint is mixed with an alloy to make radar absorbing paint–a simple low-tech method to confuse the magnetic energy around the plane. But there is no evidence to suggest that the LTTE is using any of these methods.
SLAF’s accuracy in bombing raids
Our investigations reveal that the accuracy of the bombing raids of the SLAF’s fast jet bombers is currently between 80 to 90 percent. A sincere effort was made during the CFA to improve the accuracy of the attacks. This effort seems to have paid some dividends.
Although the exact details involved in improving the accuracy of the jet bombers cannot be revealed, some details can be discussed openly at this point. One of the key improvements the SLAF made was through the acquisition of DGPS or Differential Global Positioning Systems.
The jet bombers of number 10 squadron release their lethal cargo automatically once over the target, based on a computerized system. What one calls ‘Dive Bombing’ is where the pilot lowers the nose of the jet as he approaches the target but the bomb is released by the computerized system on board.
Before the CFA, SLAF realized that GPS coordinates it had gathered were 10m to sometimes 100m off target due to a problem with the traditional latitudinal and longitudinal grid map. Through an elaborate and cunning process, SLAF and MIC were able to correct this map with the differential data. They then superimposed this new map with satellite images. Hundreds of LTTE targets were thus systematically mapped resulting in the aforesaid increase in accuracy.