SOURCE: ISLAND LK
China and Sri Lanka are in the process of overhauling Chinese-built F7 jets in accordance with an agreement finalised early last year. Two F7s (F7GS and F7 BS) that had been overhauled in China were recently delivered to Sri Lanka.
The F7 GS acquired in early 2008 is capable of firing missiles. Previous government acquired jets with missile capability in the wake of Air Tigers mounting attacks.Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy received the two aircraft at the Katunayake air base, home to fighter jets.
Air Marshal Jayampathy thanked Aviation Engineering Division representatives of M/S CATIC (China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation) spearheading the aircraft overhauling project.
An authoritative security official told The Island that in addition to them, two other F7s were being overhauled at the Aircraft Overhaul Wing at SLAF base, Katunayake.
Political and defence sources said India had thwarted an earlier attempt to establish the Aircraft Overhaul Wing at China Bay, Trincomalee during the previous administration. Sources said that India had strongly objected to the project on the basis of the presence of Chinese military personnel there.
Responding to a query, the official said that the Chinese-led project was meant to overhaul all types of fixed wing aircraft acquired from China over the years. The official said that in accordance with the agreement, SLAF personnel received expert training in China.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Sumangala Dias, members of the Air Force Board of Management attended a simple ceremony at the Katunayake airbase. The security official described the first of its kind operation with any country as a technology transfer project.
SLAF spokesman Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne said: “The Chinese specialists are expected to assist and guide the SLAF in establishing the facilities and in the first few overhauls, after which they are expected to withdraw gradually, leaving the SLAF with the capability to independently handle overhauls.”
“Initially the project is expected to handle the airframe overhaul of Chinese origin aircraft though the SLAF expects that the technology acquired will facilitate the overhaul of other aircraft as well.”
Since the launch of technology transfer began, two PT 6 trainer aircraft had been overhauled and delivered to SLAF.
In addition to F7s and PT 6, SLAF uses Y 12 Chinese built transport aircraft.
Since the conclusion of the war in May 2009, SLAF’s all Israeli and Russian built Kfirs and MiG 27s had been gradually removed from service leaving the service sans jet capability. MiGs had been grounded whereas Kfirs were categorised as currently unserviceable.
Sources said that Sri Lanka had been unable to proceed with plans to acquire JF 17 Thunder jets built jointly by Pakistan-China during the Rajapaksa administration.
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China produce the aircraft.