Air Mobiles: The Nation’s Dazzling Future

September 16, 2021

By Nisal Rukshan

The word ‘Air Mobile’ gives a wider meaning when it’s connected to military operations, correlating to different activities in battles, though it generally means the ability to mobilise in the air by means of aircraft, Helicopters etc. The concept of airmobile was initiated by the US military as a sling load mission during the Korean War on 13 September 1951. Since then, the airmobile concept has been implemented by all militaries in the world as a versatile, credible and a powerful military tool. The first recorded airmobile operation was conducted by 45 Commandos and Royal Marines in the Operation Musketeer on 5 November 1956 during the Suez Crisis.

The US military’s first airmobile unit called the 1st Cavalry Division proved the power of airmobile operations during the Vietnam War for the first time at the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 which would be remembered as one of the most iconic battles of the Vietnam War. At present, the airmobile forces in other countries are proficient in air assaults which require many numbers of troops and air assets and are popularly known as Air Assault Battalions and Brigades.

During 11 years of battlefield application in the Vietnam War, the airmobile concept was tested and refined current airmobile tactics. In the Sri Lankan context, the Airmobile Operations maiden arrival was held with the concept development of the Airmobile Brigade of the Sri Lanka Army on 1 May 1994 in the Vavuniya under the leadership of Brigadier HN Halangoda RWP RSP USP USACGSC. Due to his commitments and contributions towards this establishment, he was renowned as the founding father of the Sri Lanka Airmobile Brigade.

Courageous and self-sacrificing

The aim of the establishment of the Air Mobile Brigade was to conduct of special operations with the capability of rapid deployment by means of air mobility. It was specially designed by deviating from the ordinary infantry task and was formed to pose deterrence by the means of air mobility and to confront the isolated terrorist bases which were behind the LTTE forward Defence lines. The support of the Sri Lanka Air Force was obtained, due to the unavailability of own air fleet to fulfill the requirement of mobility from air. Also the 1st Air Mobile training programme was held at the Air Force Base Vavuniya.

The battalions of 4 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR), 7 Gemunu Watch (GW), 1 Gajaba Regiment (GR) and 4 GR joined the history as the first battalions that followed the Air Mobile Training in Sri Lanka. The troops of the Airmobile Brigade are renowned for their proven bravery in the battlefield with the selfless sacrifices the airmobile troops have made in becoming a victorious Army by defeating the relentless LTTE terrorists. The battles of ‘Operation Eagle’ in 1990, ‘Operation Balawegaya’ in 1991, ‘Operation Riviresa’ in 1995, ‘Operation Jayasikuru’ in 1997, ‘Operation Kinihira’ in 2000,

‘Operation Agnikheela in 2001 and finally the ‘Humanitarian Operation’ from 2006 to 2009 are some classic examples for the commitment of the Air Mobile Brigade. At the end of the year 1996, 3 Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) , 1 SLSR, 5 GW, 6 GR and 1 Vijayabhahu Infantry Regiment (VIR) also became members of the Airmobile Brigade at different stages and had actively participated in all major operations conducted by the Sri Lanka Army for the freedom of our motherland. After the Humanitarian Operation in 2009, various battalions were attached and some were detached from the Airmobile Brigade.

With the end of the Humanitarian Operation, the Air Mobile Brigade changed its former objective direction and it was diverted towards the nation building and disaster management tasks under the direction of the 53 Infantry Division (RSF). At present, the Airmobile Brigade consists of 5 Battalions, namely 24 SLLI, 12 SLSR, 5 GW, 3 GR and 1 VIR and is deployed at Veilankulam, with 12 SLSR having relocated from its previous deployment at Embilipitiya.

Role of the Airmobile Brigade

The role of the Airmobile Brigade is to harness the full potential for a rapid deployment into swift action using helicopters in controlled, wellcoordinated and decentralized operations to bridge the gap between Infantry and Special Operation Force (SOF) as an intermediary, characterised by a ready, reliable and a fully geared force, enforced with flexibility, innovation, audacity, and aggressiveness to face any spectrum of operations. Even though all military establishments are vested with a primary task, depending on the uniqueness they are also called to perform Secondary tasks and to maintain the professionalism and the long-lasting military traditions.

Through the past 27 years of the Air Mobile Brigade, 23 Brigade Commanders, including General Kamal Gunaratne (Retd), the present Secretary of Ministry of Defence, General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID - 19 Outbreak, led the men towards military professionalism by following the superiors of the proud history. Presently the Air Mobile Brigade is commanded by Colonel PSS Sanjeewa. Apart from the aforementioned general outline of the Air Mobile Brigade, the unique Air Mobile Warriors are updating their skills, knowledge and strategies in line with the modern world.

Further, through Threat analysis, Strength analysis, Weakness analysis and Opportunity Analysis forecasting the future of the whole establishment, the Sri Lanka Army recognised the constant need of adapting to the changes of different conditions and circumstances in the world. Hence, widely understanding the need of change, the organisation recently launched the ‘Sri Lanka Army Way Forward Strategy (SLAWFS) 2020- 2025’ policy under the direction and supervision of General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID -19 Outbreak. With launching of SLAWFS, the Air Mobile Brigade also changed their facet of operations by modernising through ‘Towards a Dazzling Future Air Mobile Brigade 2021-2026 (TDFAMB)’ with the blessings of the Commander of the Army and the supervision of the Air Mobile Brigade Commander.

The purpose of the TDFAMB 2021 - 2026 is to present a set of strategies to transform the Airmobile Brigade into a fully-fledged force, readily available to bridge the gap between the Infantry and SOF (Special Operation Force), groomed with specialised techniques of war fighting and resilient capabilities, to conduct any spectrum of operations. DFAMB 2021 - 2026 focuses on developing the skills and capacities and upgrading the weapons and equipment of the Airmobile Brigade while ensuring its sustainability under the guidance of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.

The ‘Enduring Core Values’ introduced to Air Mobile Brigade with the launch of TDFAMB 2021 - 2026 was briefed by Major General Nishantha Manage, General Officer Commanding of 53 Division (Reserve Strike Force) to His Excellency the President during his visit to the Army Headquarters. The core values included Patriotism, Discipline, Loyalty, Integrity, Honour, Knowledge, Courage, Valour, Unity and Commitment. Practising the aforementioned core values, presently the troops of the Air Mobile Brigade maintain their performance into high gear, giving a new facet diversifying into different fields. With all these well-equipped modifications, specially with the expansion of their skills in disaster relief assistance, the Air Mobile Brigade is ready to serve the motherland aptly.

In the events of landslides, floods, rescue operations, bush fires, their contribution helps the nation immensely with the conceptual leadership of the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva. The Air Mobile Brigade envisages expanding their scope utilizing their skills maintaining a close coordination with Sri Lanka Army Drone Regiment and Sri Lanka Air Force to eradicate illegal drug menace, illicit liquor production, curbing Cannabis cultivation, illegal felling of trees, illegal sand mining etc.

Step by step, day by day, the Air Mobile Brigade is reaching to a dazzling future with new doctrines like Sri Lanka Army Way forwards Strategy 2020- 2025, The Dazzling Future Air Mobile Brigade 2021 - 2026. “Timely and necessary changes will make a better tomorrow. Air Mobile Brigade of Sri Lanka Army also needs to serve the Nation with their fullest contribution together with skills, technology and competency”, stated by General Shavendra Silva, the Army Commander at the inauguration of ‘The Dazzling Future Air Mobile Brigade 2021 - 2026’ at the Army Headquarters.

Courtesy - www.ceylontoday.lk