In its early years, the air force was engaged primarily in immigration patrol, with occasional assistance in emergency relief. During the insurgency of 1971, the air force played a major role in restoring internal order; in addition to providing transport of ammunition, food, and troops, it participated in assaults against insurgent strongholds. Following the ethnic rioting of 1983, the air force was placed on permanent active status and participated in counter insurgency activities and airstrikes on the rebel controlled areas of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Because of a severe shortage of hard currency for military expenditures in the wake of the 1971 uprising, the Number Four Squadron(Helicopter
) began operating commercial transportation services for foreign tourists under the name of Helitours
. In 1987 the air force had a total strength of 3,700 personnel, including active reserves. The force had grown gradually during its early years, reaching a little over 1,000 officers and recruits in the 1960s. Rapid growth began in the mid-1980s, when the Sri Lankan Civil War
drew the service into a major, long-term security role. Between 1983 and 1987, the force grew by nearly 50 percent.
As in the other services, a shortage of spare parts plagued maintenance efforts, forcing the service to send a number of aircraft to Singapore and elsewhere for repairs. After the purchase of equipment from Canada in 1986, the air force gained the... Read More