Taking over the hangar belonging to the defunct Air Ceylon, building work began, to raise the required structures to support flying operations. At the same time equipment and spares necessary for maintenance of aircraft were also shifted to Ratmalana. The Ratmalana Air Force Camp was ceremonially declared opened by the then Minister of National Security, the Hon Lalith Athulathmudali on 23rd April 1985 on the invitation of the Commander of the Air Force, AVM Dick Perera.
The opening of new units and the operational situation opening up in the North and East, as the blip of Northern bred terrorism erupted in 1983, forced the Air Force cadres to grow just as they did in 1971 to counter the insurgency. The cadre increased from 2, 602 to 3,306 whilst the number of officers too increased to 274. (By 1985, the cadre of Other Ranks increased to 5,000, whilst the cadre of Officers increased to 480.)
A Shuffle at Headquarters
Air Force Headquarters lost its Officers Mess, Sergeants Mess and Airmen Mess to the Urban Development Authority, in the early 80s, to permit the construction of the Ramada Renaissance Hotel (now known as Trans Asia Hotel). A new building was set up to house these units, the cost of which was met by the Prime Minister. The Officers Mess temporarily moved to the BMICH.
In 1984 the new Officers Mess was opened at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo. The land adjoining the Criminal Justice Commission (formerly Queen's Club) was acquired and converted to a first class sports complex. Buildings belonging to the CJC were also handed over to the SLAF in 1985 for future expansion.
AVM Perera saw the blip of terrorism appear on the screen and grow larger, over time. He attempted to alert his superiors to the needs of the Air Force, in terms of acquiring modern aircraft to replace the ageing fleet. He had to expand and to some extent he succeeded in terms of manpower, and most importantly, establishing the network of airfields around the country a factor that was going to play a vital role in the years to come.
However, the role envisaged for the Sri Lanka Air Force was still one of transport and reconnaissance only. No one dreamt of a punitive role for the SLAF, as yet. Air Vice Marshal Dick Perera relinquished Command of the SLAF on 30th April 1985.