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Protecting our skies for sixty four years

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The Sri Lanka Air Force which was set up with the vision of ‘ensuring national security through effective employment of air power’ celebrates its 64th anniversary on March 2 (tomorrow).  Its journey throughout the last 64 years since the inception has been significantly proved very constructive on the country’s national security as well as numerous other sectors.
 
Initially, it was the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF); and it was born on March 2, 1951.

 The Group Captain, Graham Clerke Bladon, seconded by the British Government to set up the RCyAF, commanded it through its formative years
Three years after birth, the

RCyAF took delivery of its first batch of Merlin-engine Boulton Paul Balliol aircraft, heralding the commencement of advanced flying training activities, long delayed up to that juncture. The De Havilland Dove joined the fleet in 1955.

The late 1950s saw the departure of the RAF from the shores of Lanka and the RAF bases at Katunayake and China Bay became RCyAF Stations. The first jets arrived in Ceylon in the form of the De Havilland Vampires. These were followed by the Hunting Percival Jet Provosts. When the RCyAF was practising for the Independence Day Fly Past in 1960, the Jet Provosts were in flight formation when one of the aircraft experienced a flame out. This triggered the RCyAF’s first case of ejection, when Squadron Leader Noel Lokuge ejected from his aircraft over the Negombo
Lagoon.

Air Commodore, E. Rohan Amarasekera DFC took over as the first Ceylonese Commander of the RCyAF, succeeding AVM Barker.  Rohan Amarasekara was RCyAF’s very own World War II hero, having served with distinction as a navigator in the RAF Bomber Command.
AVM Amarasekara pursued the Ceylonization of the Air Force. He also played a key role in quelling the coup-d’ètat that threatened to overthrow the government. Pathman ‘Paddy’ Mendis took over the reins from Amarasekera. It was during his tenure that the RCyAF transformed into the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Air Commodore, Harry Goonetileke became the fifth Commander of the Air Force on  November 1, 1976. Goonetileke’s period of command saw the beginnings of some important reclamation work; a task that was pursued by his successor AVM Dick
Perera.

Silver Jubilee
It was March in 1976 marked the Silver Jubilee of the Sri Lanka Air Force. On May 1, 1981 Air Vice Marshal, Dick Cuthbert Perera succeeded Air Vice Marsha,l Harry Goonetileke as Commander of the Air Force. 

On May 1, 1985, Andibuduge Walter Fernando rose to the highest echelon of the Sri Lanka Air Force, having being promoted to the rank of Air Marshal. He was followed by Makalandage Johnny Terrence De Silva Gunawardena who took over as the eighth commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force on August 1, 1990.  
Air Marshal, Oliver Ranasinghe took over the command of the SLAF on Feb 17, 1994.  Jayalath Weerakkody, who rose to the rank of Air Marshal on March 6, 1998, became the Sri Lanka Air Force’s 10th Commander.  Next at the helm was Air Marshal, GD Perera who took over as Commander on July 16, 2002. 

Following in the footsteps of his illustrious father and the 5th Commander Harry, Air Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke took over as the 12th Commander of the Air Force. On May 18, 2009, with the successful conclusion of the Humanitarian Operations, he was promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal.
Air Marshal, HD Abeywickrama took over as the 13th Commander on February 27, 2011. 

Under the leadership of the present Commander, Air Marshal
Kolitha Gunatilleke, who took over the reins of the Air Force on February 28, 2014, the Air Force continues to contribute to post- conflict Nation building efforts, while also developing capacity and quality of life of its members.
 
Women
 The SLAF has lady officers serving in all the branches except in the general duties pilot branch. The SLAF has many professionals in different fields such as medical, dental, architecture and legal. The service rendered by them immensely contributes to uplift the standards in the SLAF. Notwithstanding, the general view about the military as a place which is suitable for tough and hard personnel, approximately 250 lady officers and 3,000 airwomen have joined the SLAF so far since 1972   
Flying Officer, J P S Jayasundara is the only lady officer sky diver in the Sri Lanka’s military, and AW/2557 Sergeant, Hewagamage has created a record of more than 300 jumps including night jumps.   Air Force has a lady officer who completed her Bachelor of Science (Defence Studies) degree in Aeronautical Engineering with a First Class in 2002, and secured an all-time highest Aggregate at the end of the degree program. She has won the highest number of awards won by a single person (male and female) in the KDU history at convocation.

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