With this unification of the forces, and its implications for the SLAF, given its earlier role of providing support to the ground effort, the SLAF command sat down to map out its own directional changes in doctrine and strategy.
As the SLAF's basic doctrine was rooted in its fundamental relationship with the Army and Navy, the command instituted revised procedures, command and communication arrangements, plus standard operational practices which were designed for a more flexible and optimum employment of Air Power. As the SLAF's basic doctrine was rooted in its fundamental relationship with the Army and Navy, the command instituted revised procedures, command and communication arrangements, plus standard operational practices which were designed for a more flexible and optimum employment of Air Power.
The SLAF's strategy was underpinned by 3 main elements Force Deployment, Force Development and Force Employment.
Force Deployment entailed the pre-planned location of Air Force assets which primarily meant the flying squadrons. Accordingly, the SLAF's strategy was to base its flying forces as close to operational areas as possible. Over the subsequent years, this strategy was successfully implemented with the air bases at Palali, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Hingurakgoda, China Bay, Batticaloa and Amparai becoming hives of activity. Operating from these bases, the Air Force was able to respond quickly and decisively to calls from the Army and Navy for assistance, and also to undertake its own punitive missions.
Force Development meant the improvement of fundamental assets of the SLAF its military aircraft. Thus, 1986 saw the acquisition of several new aircraft a 3 Bell 212 helicopters, 1 BAe 748 (AVRO) twin engined transport aircraft, 5 Siai Marchetti SF260 TP light ground attack aircraft and 2 Y12 (Yunshuju) twin engine light transport aircraft, all joined the fleet.
Force Employment covered the actual usage of aircraft i.e. the actual exercise of air power. In 1986 the Air Force flew a wide variety of missions and recorded the highest number of flying hours ever, for a single year. Fixed-wing aircraft flew almost 7000 hours, whilst the helicopters did just over 8000 hours- all told they flew over 15000 hours which was a 26% increase over the previous year. Also 1.8 million litres of aviation fuel was forward supplied over the year.
When the Army ventured out of their besieged positions at Pt. Pedro, Valvettiturai and Jaffna Fort, the Air Force would on some occasions, provide CASEVAC assistance to the troops, plus air observation point missions. The Army also mounted large-scale operations in the Jaffna Peninsula such as Short Shrift 1 and Short Shrift II in support of which the Air Force flew reconnaissance missions and provided close air support, casualty evacuation and air observation point missions.
The SLAF's Siai Marchetti SF260 TP ground attack aircraft and the Bell 212 and 412 helicopters configured as gun ships or troop carriers figured largely in these operations. In cold statistics the Air Force flew a total of 92,160 passengers and carried at total of 2,016,000 pounds of cargo in 1986.