The first of two maritime patrol aircraft that Sri Lanka is acquiring from India after a protracted negotiation process will arrive at the Katunayake Air Force base on Monday (August 15), The Sunday Morning has learnt. The Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), a licensed built aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) of India will be ferried to Sri Lanka by a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) crew. The 15-member SLAF crew sent to India for training on the aircraft in April 2022 has completed training and is qualified to fly and maintain the aircraft. The aircraft is to be maintained by a trained SLAF ground crew under the supervision of Indian engineers. It is understood that the arrival of the aircraft will be witnessed by senior government officials, including President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian diplomats. The Dornier 228’s entry into the Sri Lankan armed forces service comes following a government-to-government discussion which began in 2018 when Sri Lanka requested to acquire two aircraft from India to improve the island’s maritime surveillance capabilities. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan Cabinet granted approval for two Dornier 228 to be acquired from India. The first aircraft arriving next Monday is one which was in service with Indian Naval Fleet Air Arm and is to be given on gratis basis for the first two years. According to sources at the Ministry of Defence, this is due to the production time required to manufacture a new aircraft at HAL. Under the agreement between both governments, Sri Lanka will purchase one new MPA from India, while another new aircraft of the same make is to be gifted to Sri Lanka by India. “The SLAF intends to effectively employ the aircraft to conduct Maritime and Coastal Surveillance Operations within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Search and Rescue Operations (SAR), Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) and Maritime Pollution Monitoring and Control within Sri Lankan Search and Rescue Region (SRR), said Spokesman for the Sri Lanka Air Force, Gp Capt. Dushan Wijesinghe.
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