THE ZONAL CONCEPT
when he introduced a Zonal Command system to help the Air Force respond to the intensifying operational requirements. The new concept was based on the grouping of SLAF stations according to their geographical locations, into Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Zones. Under the new Zonal concept, the four Zonal Commanders were responsible for both air and ground operations that had been decided upon, by the Directorate of Operations at Air Force HQ.
In the chain of command, the Zonal Commanders were directly responsible to the Commander of the Air Force, through the Chief of Staff, for the efficient planning and functioning of their respective zones. At inauguration of the concept, the Commander (Western Zone) was AVM Brendon Sosa (Base Commander, Katunayake), Commander (Southern Zone) was Gp Capt T.B. Pananwala (Base Commander, Ratmalana), Commander (Northern Zone) was Wg Cdr J. Weerakkody (Base Commander, Anuradhapura) and Commander (Eastern Zone) was Gp Capt K.G.A. Peiris (Base Commander, China Bay).
This new concept was the only major change to have taken place in the Management structure of the SLAF since Commander Mendis introduced the Board of Management concept, back in the 70s, and remained in place until the year 2000.
Commander Gunawardena added two new Directorates to the Board of Management structure - on 19th February 1991 the Directorate of Welfare was founded, headed by Air Cdre T.P. Ratnayake. The new Directorate was to establish and administer welfare organisations to provide financial and other assistance for the benefit of servicemen and their families. It also handles rehabilitation work and compensation grants to the next-of-kin, of those killed in action.
The Directorate of Planning was formed on 1st March 1991 headed by AVM P.M. Fernando. The main tasks under the new Directorate was the systematic planning of all SLAF activities and programmes, research, system analysis and proposing development of manpower utilisation, material resources and financing.
Due to operational exigencies and the security climate in the country in 1991, Air Force HQ shifted out of its premises at Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha and moved to Thunmulla Junction (Bauddhalokha Mawatha) to occupy the Officers Mess building. Commander Gunawardena also opened a new Hospital at SLAF, Ratmalana on 20th March 1990; it initially began with the shifting of the existing medical centre, which developed into a fully-fledged hospital