10:47am on Sunday 4th February 2024
Today marks the 76th anniversary of our nation gaining independence from colonial rule. This year’s National Independence Day celebrations were held under the theme of "Let’s build a new country" at Galle Face Green today (4th February 2024).

Under the able leadership of the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, the Guardians of the Skies proudly participated in the Independence Fly Past and the ceremonial march past this year. A total of 19 SLAF aircraft, 34 pilots in the flypast, and 63 officers, 784 airmen, and airwomen on the foot column, along with 28 vehicles for the mechanical column, participated in the ceremonial march past.

The Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Sampath Wickremaratne, Acting Director General Air Operations, Air Vice Marshal Lasitha Sumanaweera, and Director General Ground Operations, Air Vice Marshal Chaminda Wickremaratne, received the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, during his arrival at the occasion.

The arrival of the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the First Lady, Prof. Mrs. Maithree Wickremesinghe marked the commencement of the celebrations. The Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Ministers, Chief Justice, the Governor of the Western Province, Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Gunatilleke, the Governor of the North-Western Province, State Ministers, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army, Commander of the Navy, the Inspector General of the Police, State Secretaries, Diplomats, and other distinguished dignitaries graced the occasion.

The National Flag was hoisted by the President amidst the beating of "Magul Bera" and blowing of conch shells, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by school children. Later, the three service Commanders and the Inspector General of the Police conducted the President to the special dais, opposite which school girls recited Jayamangala Gatha to invoke blessings of the noble Triple Gem on the Nation and also the "Devo Vassatu Kalena" to bless the Nation.

Subsequently, a Guard of Honour followed by a 21-Gun Salute was accorded to the President by the Armed Forces.

Acting Director General Air Operations of the SLAF, Air Vice Marshal Lasitha Sumanaweera, was the overall operations commander of the Independence Day Fly Past, which included one (01) Bell 212 Helicopter, three (03) Bell 412 Helicopters, three (03) MI-17 Helicopters, three (03) PT-06 Trainer Aircraft, three (03) Y-12 Light Transport Aircraft, one (01) B200 Surveillance Aircraft, one (01) AN-32 Heavy Transport Aircraft, two (02) K-8 Advanced Trainer Aircraft, and two (02) F-7 Fighter Jet Aircraft. The Fly Past was coordinated by Air Commodore Asela Jayasekara, Wing Commander DLJRK Dodamgoda as the Air Traffic Control Coordinator, the Formation Navigator, Group Captain PN Gunathilake, and Wing Commander JAR Jayawickrama as the Rescue Coordinator. The Fly Past Navigators were Group Captain DL Hewavitharana, Group Captain RMCJK Ratnayake, Group Captain DGNB Senevirathne, Group Captain KHDP Kasagala, Wing Commander DUE De Silva, Wing Commander TP De Silva, Wing Commander KSUC Ranasinghe, and Wing Commander SMMMM Senanayake.

The overall operations commander on the ground during the ceremonial march past was Director General Ground Operations, Air Vice Marshal Chaminda Wickremaratne, and the overall parade coordinator was Wing Commander Wasantha Lakshman, Staff Officer Ground VI of the Directorate of Ground Operations.

The Commandant of the SLAF Academy China Bay, Air Commodore Thushara Weerarathne, joined as the Air Force Contingent Commander for the parade. The SLAF Ceremonial March was commanded by Wing Commander Prasad Kulathunga, which comprised five Squadrons, while Squadron Leader Gayan Joseph commanded the Air Force Ceremonial Band. The first squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader Shalintha Irugalbandara, the second by Squadron Leader Tharindu Jayawardane, and the third squadron, which was made up of airwomen, was commanded by Squadron Leader Lakshika Attale.

Next, the Special Airborne Force Squadron led by Wing Commander Janith Pieris presented their salute to the President, followed by the Regiment Special Force Squadron, which marched under the leadership of Wing Commander Sumith Bandara, the Commanding Officer of the SLAF Regiment Special Forces Wing at Morawewa.

This year’s mechanical column representing the support elements of the SLAF has included an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Air Defence System, Armament, and Special Airborne Force Rider Squad.

The mechanical column was led by the Commanding Officer of the No. 01 Air Defence and Radar Squadron at SLAF Base Katunayake, Wing Commander Tharanga Mallawarach. The UAV element displayed the Lihiniya MK-1 E system and the latest drone prototype, brainchild by the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, and manufactured by the Aeronautical Research and Development Wing at SLAF Station Katukurunda, led by Squadron Leader Amila Ariyarathna These indigenously developed machines will be utilized by SLAF to achieve strategic reconnaissance with a minimum takeoff time and minimum manufacturing cost. The Air Defence Radar element, made up of an Indra MK-2 Radar System, was led by Squadron Leader Tharanga Walpita. Two display vehicles displayed the surface-to-air missile capabilities of the SLAF, and a series of ammunition replicas showcased that were used by SLAF Fighter Aircraft were led by Squadron Leader Dasitha Samaraweera.

The highlight of the SLAF mechanical column was the Chemical, Biological Radiological, and Nuclear Explosive (CBRNE) Wing element, led by Wing Commander Nilendra Perera, the Commanding Officer of the SLAF CBRNE Wing. The SLAF CBRNE Wing was the first to conduct disinfection operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the disinfection of 33 students who were repatriated from Wuhan China on the 1st of February 2020.

The SLAF Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit was led by Squadron Leader Damith Ramanayake followed by the Air Dog Unit. The Sri Lanka Air Force Special Airborne Force Rider Squad, led by Squadron Leader Haritha Pinnaduwa, marked the end of the SLAF mechanical column and the parade. Eventually, a combination of armed forces and police colored the Gall Face Green skies by adding much more glamour with Paratroopers who were led by Group Captain Jagath Godakanda that gestured the end of the 76th National Independence Day celebrations. Wing Commander Vijitha Gomis coordinated the overall paratroopers’ display onboard as the jumpmaster for 11 paratroopers from Sri Lanka Army, 05 from Sri Lanka Navy, 11 representing Sri Lanka Air Force, and 03 paratroopers from the Police Special Task Force.

The Chief of Staff of the SLAF, members of the Air Force Board of Management, and Senior Officers participated in the National Independence Day celebrations.

Following the conclusion of the celebrations at Galle Face Green, Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa proceeded to SLAF Base Ratmalana, where he participated in the customary group photograph with all the pilots who flew for the Independence Day Fly Past, as well as all other officers who supported this operation.



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