View Full Version : CMB Airport Attacked by Tamil "Freedom Fighters"

24th Jul 2001, 07:25
Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 03:09 GMT 04:09 UK
Key Sri Lankan air base attacked

Tamil Tigers are thought to be behind the attack

At least eight people have been killed and several aircraft damaged in heavy fighting at a major Sri Lankan air force base.
Military spokesman Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne said that the base, 30km north of the capital Colombo, had come under attack from Tamil Tiger rebels using explosives and small arms.

There are military aircraft burning on the ground. It looks like a very major attack.

At least eight bodies of attackers have so far been found in the military base. At least one was found in the base's control tower.

There were said to be no casualties in the civilian airport, where passengers were evacuated to a nearby hotel.

All flights from the airport have been suspended, while incoming flights have been diverted to the southern Indian city of Madras.

Mr Karunaratne said fighting had ceased and a curfew declared in the surrounding area, but there have been more recent reports of gunfire. Security forces are searching for infiltrators.

BBC correspondent Frances Harrison says the attack bears all the hallmarks of the Tamil Tigers, and is the first major one to be blamed on the rebels this year.


There were reports that at least two Israeli-built fighter jets and a helicopter were destroyed.

And eyewitnesses near the base said they had heard a series of massive explosions and could see a huge fire, which seemed to suggest that a fuel tank had been hit.

Tourists who arrived at the civilian airport at the time of the attack were told to get out and escaped through a hole in the fence.

The UK Foreign Office said 47 British nationals were among those caught up in the trouble.

None were injured but they said they had a terrifying escape.

One tourist, Sean Hill, described the ordeal as blind panic, with some members of his group diving into a ditch to save themselves.

Some reports say the air force had brought some new planes to the base the day before.

Blow to peace

And as the first attack outside the north or east of the country for several months, it appears to signal that the stalled peace process is at an end.

Norwegian-brokered efforts have been sidelined for several months, with the government refusing a Tiger demand to lift a ban on the group before any direct peace talks can start.

The attack coincides with the anniversary this week of Tamil race riots in 1983 which triggered the civil war.

The Tigers have been fighting since then for a separate state.

It is the first time the base has been attacked, though the Tigers have targeted the international airport in the past.

In 1986, 16 people were killed in an explosion on a plane owned by Air Lanka, then the national carrier.


24th Jul 2001, 07:44
This is an ongoing problem in CMB, and not likely to subside anytime soon. I worked for five years with UL and the trouble did not affect crews all that much, but suggest that anyone contemplating working there to be VERY careful. The airline was pleasant to work for, the management treated expat crews quite well, altho the pay was somewhat low the route structure is excellent with many varied destinations with good layovers.
All in all, nice folks to work with.

24th Jul 2001, 09:14
Could be very bad news for UL and EK...

>>SriLankan Airlines, 40 percent owned by Dubai's Emirates airline, said two of its jetliners were destroyed in the attack and three damaged...SriLankan said its UL679 flight from Sydney had been diverted to Madras in India and UL506 from London was diverted to Dubai.<<

bravo 2-0
24th Jul 2001, 10:33
I understand that UL had just taken delivery of 2 AB330 a/c yesterday (about the same time as the delivery of the new KFIR jets) ...seems very coincidental that the attack came the day after ....

Wonder who spilt the beans? :rolleyes:

24th Jul 2001, 12:09
Colombo Daily News update(10:30 local) reports three A340s and one A330 destroyed, together with an Antonov "cargo carrier".

Thrust Bump
24th Jul 2001, 13:30
:rolleyes: Phew, I can go to the islands via DXB after all :cool:

24th Jul 2001, 15:07
Last I read was that 1 x A330 and 1 x A340 destroyed with up to 3 x A320's damaged. Airport may re-open soon. Can anyone confirm or update?

Tricky Woo
24th Jul 2001, 15:42
Who gives a toss if a few aircraft have been destroyed? It's only money, folks. The insurance companies will cough up, (In the end), the airlines concerned will lease a couple of extra aircraft, and Airbus will get a few more orders in the near future. So what?

The Tamils have good cause to be p**sed off with the non-Tamil populace, and in return the non-Tamils have good cause to be p**sed off in return. Fourteen Sri Lankan people are dead, which is the real tragedy, and there'll be many, many more in the future.


24th Jul 2001, 16:06
Report from the SriLankan Airlines site timed at 15:30(local):

SriLankan Airlines is planning to resume services tomorrow morning (July 25) subject to the Bandaranaike International Airport being re-opened.

The airline is working out an operational plan based on available aircraft, the details of which will be released later in the day. At present however, we have no aircraft in Colombo. All flights out of the country will resume after the arrival of the six aircraft, which are now at overseas destinations.

Of the aircraft on ground at the time of the attack on the Sri Lanka Air Force installation adjacent to the BIA this morning, three aircraft were destroyed and three damaged. The destroyed aircraft include one A340 and two A330s. The damaged aircraft are two A320s and an A340.

No passenger or SriLankan Airlines' airport staff was injured as a result of the terrorist attack today.

All non-resident passengers who were affected by the cancellations and diversions will be accommodated by the airline in hotels. They will be booked on the first available flights to their destinations."


24th Jul 2001, 20:06
One need only look to the past to see what this "dispute" has cost already, 8,000+ dead, with many thousands injured.
The tamils, with about 18% of the population, claim more than 40% of the island. Bit greedy, I would say.

24th Jul 2001, 20:15
A Yank calling other people greedy, nice one!

24th Jul 2001, 22:32
Yeah, but at least i'm not a smug superior-sounding Brit in HKG trying to weasel more dosh out of CX.

Hans Cholder
25th Jul 2001, 01:12
Now now boys. Let us stay focussed on the topic and not start another bashing tread.

25th Jul 2001, 01:21
Tickey Woo whoever you are, your insensitivity is apparent, sure the money part, insurance understanable, but did you stop to ponder and feel, what about the pilots who will be out of a job?
Recently the airline recruited new pilots , maybe they have not yet completed their training and Bang* out of a job!
Think about it.
I feel sorry that the ones fighting for whatever the cause be, resort to such unspeakable and unimaginable destruction of property and human lives.
Uncondonable. :( :o :(

The Scarlet Pimpernel
25th Jul 2001, 02:32
Info - I can't believe what I've just read ... are you actually trying to suggest that Pilot's jobs are more important than people's lives???

Before you wade in with a reply, I suggest you take a peek at the history of the conflict before replying. And before you start - I'm not condoning terrorism in any form, but the situation is a little muddier than would appear from this incident.

25th Jul 2001, 04:21
The deceased airliners for all you number crunchers are A340 4R-ADD and A330's 4R-ALE and ALF. :(

25th Jul 2001, 05:03
Here's a picture of one of the aircraft casualties:

Tricky Woo
25th Jul 2001, 06:07

I owe you, and anyone else who was offended by my thoughtless, callous post, a heartfelt apology for being so inconsiderate as to put the death of fourteen soldiers before an untold number of pilots jobs. Clearly, the deaths of a few Sri Lankans is immaterial when compared to the temporary loss of income to pilots.

After all, there are billions more people in the 3rd World, so who cares, huh? Less of 'em to crowd our planet, that's what I say. Oh yes.

Thanks for admonishing me for my insensitivity.

TW (Mortally embarrassed)

Drop and Stop
25th Jul 2001, 06:51
Info4u-Perhaps the headline should of read: "Airport Attacked by Freedom Fighters-Pilots out of Work!?!"

Sunshine Express
25th Jul 2001, 06:54
I have only had the pleasure of visiting once but I have to say that it is a beautiful country and is populated with probably the friendliest people I have met.
It saddens me that a minority of people wish to destroy all that makes it worth having, or being a part of.
Deepest sympathy for those killed or injured by the Tamils and for all those who may be affected by the loss of jobs and income in all walks of life.

25th Jul 2001, 09:32
MY post is on Pprune and its concerning avaition, I am not interested in politics , (Yes, Human lives are important and its a sad day but those who lost their lives did it with full knowledge , EXCEPT the innocent ones who had to suffer along with them, I feel for them & their dear ones, NOT THE NUTS who are Terrorists , Cause or no Cause, I was making a point aimed at all those concerned with aviation. No more no less.
Human lives are snuffed throughout be it Sri Lanka , Macedonia its a never ending saga! Stop being judgemental and get off your high horse.

25th Jul 2001, 10:05
SriLankan fleet devastated in terrorist attack

SriLankan Airlines hoped to resume operations today, a day after a terrorist attack by Tamil rebels in Colombo destroyed two of the airline's A330s and one A340 and damaged two A320s and an A340.

The airline said that no passengers or staff members were injured in the attack on Bandaranaike International Airport. Tamil terrorists also struck the adjacent air force base, destroying eight military aircraft. Prior to the attack the airline operated a fleet of 12 aircraft including two A320s, four A340-300s and six A330-200s, all of which were leased. SriLankan noted that resumption of service at Colombo was dependent upon the arrival of the airline's six remaining aircraft, which were at overseas destinations

336 A330-243 TRENT772B-60 04/28/00 SRILANKAN AIRLINES 4R-ALE F-WWKY

341 A330-243 TRENT772B-60 06/15/00 SRILANKAN AIRLINES 4R-ALF F-WWYD

I believe (DEBI) are the leasing Company, and that in there contract they do have WarTime Insurance.

A330-200 Retail Value @ $96 Million Each

A340 Retail Value $105 Million Assuming it was built in 2000

25th Jul 2001, 14:27
I believe the actual value of the aircraft in question were US$ 132m each for A330s and US$ 93m for the A340

25th Jul 2001, 14:37



25th Jul 2001, 14:55
just updated a news summary with complete damage and hull loss listing(based on varous news sources) http://www.jacdec.de

tony draper
25th Jul 2001, 15:20
I was stuck in Colombo for eight weeks in the sixties, lot of hatred between these groups even then, I remember getting into a taxi with a Tamil driver who kept up a continues tirade against the Celonese as I think they were called then, and on the return journey in a taxi with a Celonese driver having to listen to a similar tirade against the Tamil.

Biggles Flies Undone
25th Jul 2001, 18:55
Clipstone got the numbers bang-on. Add in a few mil for the damaged aircraft and that's a huge loss for the airline hull war insurance market (at least 10 times the annual worldwide premium).

26th Jul 2001, 09:49
glad to see someone has found a practical use for airbuses. I am sorry that some good men died in the process.

30th Jul 2001, 09:01
Some new loss estimates from the latest issue of Aviation Week: $520 million civilian aircraft, $350 million military aircraft, large numbers for a country with a per capita GDP of less than $1000...


A bold 4 a.m. Tamil rebel attack that was apparently timed to do the most damage possible to SriLankan Airlines' fleet at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport has succeeded in devastating the carrier.

Of the 12 aircraft in an all-Airbus fleet, SriLankan lost an A340-300 and two A330-300s and saw another A340 and two A320s damaged in the July 24 attack. The carrier's six remaining aircraft were all out of country when the rebels hit. An Airbus team was to conduct a damage assessment late last week, but initial estimates put the loss at $520 million. SriLankan CEO Peter Hill said no staff or passengers were injured.

The long-term loss could be worse. SriLankan carries more than half the tourist traffic to the impoverished country of 19 million people, and that industry accounts for $250 million in annual revenues. Tourists are mainly Europeans and Asians.

SriLankan was launched in 1979 as Air Lanka and renamed in 1999 after Emirates bought a 40% stake and took over its management. From its Dubai hub, Emirates was making plans to support SriLankan's European flights to Colombo. Hill said the carrier would try to use Singapore as a substitute hub for its Asian operations. But the loss to its fleet prompted route cuts.

Wearing military-type fatigues, the rebels swept across the airport and an adjoining air base, where they destroyed eight military aircraft valued at $350 million, half of Sri Lanka's annual defense budget. Some of the invaders wore explosives strapped to their chests and committed suicide. Others were killed by an army counterattack. In all, 13 of the 18 rebels said to have taken part in the attack were reported dead. Seven military personnel were killed before order was restored, but the airport did not reopen until July 25.

Within hours of the attack, the Sri Lankan air force launched counterstrikes with two Kfir and two MiG-27 fighters against Tamil strongholds.

30th Jul 2001, 21:46
Reply for Airbubba and Hold-at-malby.

Just returned from CMB this morning. Indeed, a sad sight. Can confirm that the 340 and two 330's are indeed toast. The damaged aircraft are no-where to be seen on the ramp and the hulks are being removed, at least that was the status at 0200Z 30 July. :eek:

30th Jul 2001, 21:52
:rolleyes: Wonder how many bits of Airbus will be back on the AOG circuit before long :eek:

30th Jul 2001, 22:10

That is, indeed, a scarey prospect. From what I saw there's not much left un-melted. Good to see, though, that there were no apparent 'large' explosions. The fuel left in tanks just spread across the ramp with no tank 'bursts'. Eerie sight with their wingtips up in the air and no fuselage left to speak of. Will post photos when I sort them out. :eek:

2nd Aug 2001, 13:22
Sri Lanka's national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, has decided to shed more than 1,500 jobs following the loss of half its fleet in last week's devastating Tamil Tiger attack on Colombo airport.

The job losses come in the wake of sharply
increased air fares, which rose after the attack to meet high-risk insurance cover for all aircraft flying to Sri Lanka.

Fares between Sri Lanka and Europe have gone up by 10% and airlines have also
scrapped all cut-rate tickets, making the real increase in economy class tickets as high as 80%. Correspondents say the price rises are likely to hit the tourist industry hard.

SriLankan Airlines had already announced a
voluntary retirement scheme even before the rebels staged their dawn raid on Bandaranaike International airport. But what should have been a slow retrenchment process was speeded up when the Tigers completely destroyed three passenger jet liners and damaged three more parked at the airport.

Golden handshake:

On Tuesday, 711 employees were asked to quit.
The golden handshake is now being offered to
another 1,000 employees to reduce the airline's staff strength to about 3,000
personnel.Unlike in the first round, this time pilots will be among those asked to leave. SriLankan Airlines employs 195 pilots, of whom 78 are foreign nationals. The expatriate pilots will be the first to be
asked to leave and will receive three months'
notice, airline officials said. Human resources manager Sunil Dissanayake said they were hoping to arrange employment
for the laid-off pilots with other airlines,
especially their equity partner, Emirates airline of Dubai.

Travel warnings:

SriLankan Airlines has been left with just six aircraft. But Chief Executive Officer Peter Hill said on Friday that there are no plans to replace the lost aircraft because passenger traffic to Sri Lanka is expected to fall following the attack. The raid brought travel warnings from the UK,Germany, Italy, Holland and the US, which together account for half of the 400,000 tourists who visited Sri Lanka last year.
The decline could be the industry's sharpest
since the ethnic war erupted 18 years ago and
there are fears that it will drive many smaller companies to bankruptcy.

Flights suspended:

Higher security risks have prompted airlines to withdraw all cut-rate excursion fares to Sri Lanka. Cathay Pacific airlines of Hong Kong has indefinitely suspended all flights there.Even before the rebel attack SriLankan Airlines was struggling under heavy debt and financial trouble. The company lost 750.41m rupees ($10m) in the financial year ending in March 2000 and the losses for the current year are expected to be even higher.

2nd Aug 2001, 13:39
BBC News Report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1468000/1468767.stm

8th Aug 2001, 22:21
Well, guys the ramp is all cleaned up now. No bits of Airbus anywhere to be seen unless they're still operating. The only wreckage to be seen at CMB is one of the Kfirs (?) over on the Mil ramp...not quite gone yet.

Current as of o230, 8 Aug

22nd Aug 2001, 03:46
I received the following email from someone who reads PPRuNe but is not registered and said it was sent to him from a friend in Columbo.

"Isn't that amazing? I once read a novel by Tom Clancy in which a small group of trained SAS types, attack an enemy weapons base and destroys it. But the odds there were something like 20 guys attacking a base guarded by 200 guys, not 14 to 38,000. Also that was fancy Clancy fiction and you knew
such things did not happen in the real world. Until now. Here we have a match: A ruthless and efficient terrorist organisation versus a totally incompetent and corrupt regime. Who pays the price?

1. The LTTE contingent was detected 3 times before their attack. First by civilians, second by an SLAF Sergent, and again by an SLAF person.
2. The Air Force Generator (used during power cuts) that was operating near the fence where the LTTE penetrated was out of order for about a week and not repaired.
3. Everyone says the group consisted of 14, but there are reports to say that a LTTE video cameraman was also with the group. If he was there, he must have escaped via the passenger terminal, with the passengers and staff.
4. The 4 LTTE who died on the SLAF side, blew themselves up.
5. The 4 LTTE who died on the runway, also blew themselves up.
6. The 2 who died on the BIA ramp were shot by Army Commandos.
7. The 2 LTTE on the roof of the Terminal (civilian) and the Baggage Services area inside the terminal blew themselves up.
8. One LTTE entered the chiller (air-conditioning) room through a window and
blew himself up. The airport was opened at 6.00 pm on Tuesday. This body was
discovered after a bad smell came from the airport air conditioning ducts in the morning of Wednesday.
9. The SLAF did not kill a single LTTE.
10. The SLAF killed one army commando (accidentally).
11. The Airbus A340 that was damaged had 256 SLAF bullets. LTTE did not possess the same type of ammunition.
12. The 2 A320s were also damaged by Air Force fire.
13. None of the 3 air buses were damaged by LTTE fire. All 3 were damaged by Air Force bullets.
14. There are 9 Air Force armed guards guarding the civilian ramp of the civilian terminal. They could not shoot even one LTTE of the 6 who came to the civilian side of the airport.
15. The first Air Force aircraft was blown-up at 3.50 am. The first UL at 6.10 am, the last at 8.52 am, the last or the one before the last LTTE man blew himself up at 9.00 am in the morning. This firefight lasted for over 5 hours where 14 LTTE caused so much damage in a high security area consisting of 38,000 Air Force service personnel.
16. The next day the SLAF did a 'combing' operation and shot 2 civilians smoking ganja behind a bush at "Nayakanda" and another civilian on top of a coconut tree, thinking he was a sniper.
17. So the SLAF killed one commando, 3 civilians and damaged 3 aircraft with one beyond repair. The price? The economy and that's another long story."

22nd Aug 2001, 04:48
Whatever has been written above, it shows that Srilankan has lost 1/3 of its fleet. However, there can be no sympathy for the dead LTTE cadre. But the civilian who are killed by the SLAF and damaged most of the a/c. Should we say to the SLAF thaT A GOOD JOB DONE.
Met a friend, ex-Srilankan, as per him all the Phillipino Pilots have been fired and there were some Indians, who have been asked to proceed on leave. Later on I also heard that Srilankan is leasing out its Pilots to some Taiwanese company which in turn will be further sending them to Vietnam for flying on wet lease basis. No idea what is actually happenning there. But it was really sad to know that so many lives are lost, Srilankan airlines' back is totally broken after the incident. Overall what it shows is that security arrangements at The Katunayake International Airport was far from satisfactory :mad: :(

26th Aug 2001, 16:55
I was in CMB recently and its a pretty eerie feeling at the airport with the only grim reminder of the attack being several parts of aircraft notably two Airbus tails with a pale blue painted over the logo. These and other burnt parts sit alongside the civil maintenance hanger. Taxiing in (and out) made me believe that attacks could strike at anytime and slow moving aircraft on the ground and in the air are sitting targets.