The Sri Lankan government has publicly announced that it is intends to purchase eight to 12 new multi-role combat aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).
During a weekly Cabinet press briefing, Cabinet Spokesman and Parliamentary Reforms and Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka stated that “At the moment, only one Kfir aircraft – the remaining six aircrafts cannot be used. We have seven MiG aircrafts and eight other aircrafts but none of them can be used. The Government will consider all offers and select a suitable one.”
The fact that only one jet stands to defend the skies of a country populated by 23 million people is not only alarming but also quite an embarrassment. Hence, it is essential that new fighter jets are purchased for the country. But the question remains, from whom does Sri Lanka purchase from?
At the moment, India and Pakistan have offered their untested indigenous built combat fighters (Tejas and JF-17 respectively). However, this makes it incredibly awkward for Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka must balance the diplomatic relations of both neighbour countries whom are at war. Purchasing jets from America is never going to occur unless Sri Lanka allows the construction of an American military base (which is highly unlikely). More so, if Sri Lanka turns to China then India will not take this measure positively.
So who remains…
Russian fighter jets are relatively cheap, can be upgraded and have also been successfully used in combat missions for many decades. Plus, all countries listed above are probably not get extremely agitated by this decision.
Of course only time will tell what Colombo decides. The need for new fighter jets has been on the radar of the Sri Lankan Air Force since 2009 and the issue has always briefly emerged and disappeared in the headlines over the years.
Yes, Sri Lanka needs more money to be invested on education, infrastructure and entrepreneurship programs but turning a blind eye to the sky is just dangerous.
Hopefully the Sri Lankan government keeps their word this time!
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