And beware of flying tigers
Since 1958, the North American airspace has been defended by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a partnership between the United States and Canada. Since its formation, NORAD played an important role in defending the two countries against an airborne attack by external aggressors, notably the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Since 9/11, its scope has increased to cover domestic threats as well.
Between 2003 and 2004 when LTTE was engaged in the Norwegian-brokered peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government, it was also busy developing its air capability. Currently that includes a 1250m airstrip at Iranamadu in the Wanni area, a helicopter and a couple of light aircraft, possibly Czech-made Zlin Z-143s. These aircraft can fly up to 1000km and can carry four persons. Not quite the traditional air force, but in the hands of an uncoventional military force such as the Tigers, this can be put to some very deadly use. Another advantage of flying small aircraft is that they are less visible on radar and air-defence systems that are designed to spot bigger, conventional aircraft.
Apart from what it implies for the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE’s newly acquired aerial capabilities adds on to the threat the Tigers pose to India’s own national security. For that reason, India has offered to assist Sri Lanka in redesigning its air-defence systems. While this is a step in the right direction, it is also an opportunity for India and Sri Lanka to explore a wider air-defence partnership. This is a good time to consider a NORAD-like joint air-defence command that can secure the airspace over peninsular India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.