With the influx of the jets, No. 5 Jet Squadron was formed on 1st February 1991 and was based at Katunayake. Its first CO was Sqn Ldr H.D. Abeywickrema. The role designated for the attack aircraft, the F7BS, was mainly close air support for ground operations, and on requirement, in interceptor and recce mode. In the year 1991 the SLAF inducted ten other aircraft in addition to the F series jets, viz. 9 Siai Marchetti SF260 Warriors and 1 AVRO.
Wings of War ...1992
The Air Force inducted only one aircraft in 1992. Yet this was a singularly important happening in the context of its attack capabilities.
Powered by twin turbo prop engines the Pucara was of Argentinian manufacture and was purpose built for counter insurgency operations. The two-seater Pucara also had the advantage of being able to accomplish short landing and take off and could operate to airfields with relatively rough terrain, as well. The arrival of the Pucara enhanced the ground attack capabilities of the SLAF quite significantly.
The strike-force of an F7
1992 showed a reduction in operational flying demands on the SLAF, though it supported twenty-eight operations of the Army. The main one, Operation Balavegaya 2 conducted over June/July, cost them a Y8 aircraft with 18 personnel on board.
Infrastructural and other Developments
Apart from the role it played in the air, the SLAF found itself committed on the ground as well in 1992. The Air Force was called upon to secure a section of the Main Supply Route (MSR) to Trincomalee, and to protect villages in the Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Ampara Districts. The SLAF deployed 70 Officers and 2,000 Airmen to meet this contingency. Most of this force was mustered from the SLAF Regiment but their numbers were bolstered from other ranks, such as technical and other trades. Although envisaged as a limited assignment, the ground commitment lasted much longer than anticipated. The Basic Trade Training School and the Advanced and Specialised Ground Training Unit were amalgamated on 20th January 1992 to form the Advanced and Specialised Trade Training School under its first CO Sqn Ldr W. Balasuriya. An Information Technology Unit was set up on 24th November 1992 in Colombo. The first CITO was Wg Cdr W.W.V. Perera. The ITU was tasked with the computerisation of Aircraft Maintenance and Logistics Functions. Eventually the ITU was to handle the computerisation of SLAF itself. Incidentally, the first computer had been introduced to the Air Force way back in 1985, when Wg Cdr Oliver Ranasinghe who was heading No. 4 Helicopter Squadron, acquired a PC from the Bell Company representative who was assisting the SLAF at the time.