Air Marshal Oliver Ranasinghe, the ninth Commander of the SLAF, relinquished Command in March 1998. Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody took over duties as the tenth Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force on 6th March 1998 .
He was instrumental in re-organizing the SLAF's Flying Formations into effective squadrons, to meet the needs of a growing role and an expanding fleet. Even today, aircraft are inducted to meet a need, and new squadrons form around the aircraft and the designated roles they are called upon to play.
This has given rise to the formation of the different squadrons, their divisions and amalgamations and re-definition of roles, over the years .
Boost for Training
Air Marshal Weerakkody came to the seat of Command of SLAF with a firm avowal to enhance significantly, the training opportunities to the men and women of the Air Force. He lost no time in seeing his aspirations reach fruition. On 4th March 1999, he declared open The Junior Command and Staff College at China Bay, a College designed to prepare officers in the rank of Squadron Leader and Flight Lieutenant for managerial appointments.
Its other goals were to educate officers towards a better work culture, prepare them to meet social commitments as befit their rank and appointment, provide modern management skills and provide an orientation to officers to help them handle Information Systems effectively and efficiently.
The new College features an auditorium, syndicate rooms, a reference library and a computer laboratory. The Best Student receives the Air Marshal J. Weerakkody Trophy, whilst the best Commandant's Paper is awarded the Wg Cdr E.G.J.P. De Silva Trophy. The top three overall performers are sent overseas for training
The dawn of a new Millennium
The year 2000 dawned on a violent note for the Air Force. The major offensives were conducted against the Security Forces in Jaffna, by the Northern rebels in a bid to wrest territory held by the Army. These efforts were initially successful as they drove the forces back, reclaiming significant tracts of territory as they went.
Their weaponry of artillery, mortar and missiles was intensively deployed in one of their largest operations in recent times, code named Unceasing Waves . The Sri Lanka Air Force reached a crisis driven turning point in the very first month of the new millennium! Some hard questions demanded answers!
The immediate need of the hour was to increase ground attack capabilities. The SLAF began to induct an unprecedented number of aircraft to fulfil this role. A new model of jets joined the F7s of No. 5 Squadron; 6 MIG 27s nicknamed Sloggers , ensured that No. 5 Squadron became fully operational out of Katunayake.
Additionally, a MIG trainer too, was inducted to the Squadron. No. 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron took charge of several new Mi-35 helicopters, doubling their inventory from 1999 levels. The Squadron's aircraft were technically enhanced with electronic equipment, to undertake night attack duties.
No. 2 Heavy Transport Squadron took delivery of the SLAF's first two Hercules C130 aircraft in March and September 2000. These acknowledgedly top flight transporters introduced a quantum leap in payload capabilities, upping the 25 ton capabilities of the Y-8s and AN32s to the over 60 ton capabilities of the C130.
Additionally, No. 2 also inducted another 3 AN 32B aircraft to its fleet. Commander Weerakkody pressed ahead with provision of training facilities for NCOs. On 1st September 2000, he inaugurated the NCO Management School at the Combat Training School premises, with the aim of imparting supervisory skills, developing communication skills to enhance inter-personal relations on the job, developing command and leadership abilities amongst SNCOs and JNCOs, being some of the main objectives. The first CO of the School was Wg Cdr D.L.D. Sumanasekera.
Air Marshal Weerakkody, the tenth Commander of the SLAF, relinquished Command on 15th July 2002. The 11th Commander of SLAF was Air Chief Marshal G D Perera, who commanded the Air Force from 15th July 2002 to 11th June 2006. The new Commander from 11th June 2006 to date is Air Chief Marshal WDMRJ Goonetileke.