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Sri Lanka Army

Sri Lanka Army
Sinhalese: ශ්‍රී ලංකා යුද්ධ හමුදාව
Active 1 April 1881 – Present[1]
Country Sri Lanka
Branch Sri Lanka Armed Forces
Type Army
Role Foreign and Domestic Defense
Size 200,000[2]
Part of Ministry of Defence
Military Headquarters Army Headquarters, Colombo
Motto Latin: Pro Patria
"For Country"
Anniversaries October 9
Engagements World War II
1971 JVP Insurrection
1987–89 JVP Insurrection
Sri Lankan Civil War
Website .lk.armywww
Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Lt. Gen. Crishantha de Silva
FM. Sarath Fonseka
Gen. Sepala Attygalle
Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa
Maj. Gen. Vijaya Wimalaratne
Maj. Gen. Bertram Heyn
Maj. Gen. Anton Muttukumaru
Presidential Colour

The Sri Lanka Army is the oldest and largest of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and is the nation's army. Established as the Ceylon Army in 1949, it was renamed when Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972. In 2010, the Army had approximately 200,000 regular personnel, between 20,000–40,000 reserve personnel and 18,000 National Guardsmen[3][4] and comprises 13 operational divisions, one air-mobile brigade, one commando brigade, one special forces brigade, one independent armored brigade, three mechanized infantry brigades and over 40 infantry brigades.[5] From the 1980s to 2009 the army was engaged in the Sri Lankan Civil War.

The professional head of the Sri Lanka Army is the Commander of the Army, currently Lieutenant General Crishantha de Silva.[6] The Commander-in-Chief of the Sri Lankan Military is the President of Sri Lanka, who heads the National Security Council through the Ministry of Defense, which is the highest level of military command charged with formulating, executing defence policy and procurements for the armed forces.[7] However operations of the Sri Lanka Army are coordinated by the Joint Operations Command, with other two armed forces.


  • History 1
    • Ancient and pre-colonial times 1.1
    • Colonial era 1.2
      • Portuguese and Dutch rule (1505–1796 AD) 1.2.1
      • British rule (1798–1948 AD) 1.2.2
    • Post-independence 1.3
    • 1970–Present 1.4
      • Peacekeeping 1.4.1
  • Current deployments 2
    • Domestic 2.1
    • Foreign 2.2
  • Organization Structure 3
    • Administrative 3.1
      • Regiments & Corps 3.1.1
    • Operational Command 3.2
      • Force formations 3.2.1
  • Training 4
    • Training establishments 4.1
  • Personnel 5
    • Parama Weera Vibhushanaya recipients 5.1
    • Notable fallen members 5.2
    • Women in the Sri Lanka Army 5.3
  • Equipment 6
    • Armour 6.1
    • Artillery 6.2
    • Infantry weapons 6.3
  • Gallery 7
  • See also 8
  • Further reading 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Ancient and pre-colonial times

The first military engagements in

  • Official website
  • Ministry of Defence Sri Lanka
  • General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy

External links

  1. ^ Sri Lanka Light Infantry
  2. ^ a b SLA’s 200,000 men could face any threat - Army chief
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  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
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  15. ^ a b
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  17. ^ Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers admit defeat Christian Science Monitor – May 17, 2009
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  25. ^ Sri Lankan troops in Haiti honoured
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  31. ^ Haiti – MINUSTAH – Facts and Figures
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  35. ^ Army's UN Peace-Keeping mission opens a new Hospital in South Sudan
  36. ^ a b c d e
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  38. ^ a b c d e f g Two Security Forces Headquarters established in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi
  39. ^ Security Forces on a realistic path to achieve the set target, Dailynews
  40. ^
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  44. ^ Eelam War IV: Tigers Face Defeat
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^ 'Tamil unit' for Sri Lanka's army BBC – June 29, 2009
  49. ^
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  51. ^ a b c
  52. ^ a b c d e f Heroes who made the supreme sacrifice
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  58. ^
  59. ^ Michael K. Cecil – Sri Lanka’s Military: The Search For A Mission, [1].
  60. ^ a b
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  63. ^ a b
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sri Lanka Army Equipment. Retrieved on 2013-06-09.
  67. ^
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  71. ^ a b
  72. ^ Saferworld's research project on arms and security in EU Associate Countries, Czech Republic
  73. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
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  79. ^ [2]
  80. ^
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  • Army, Sri Lanka. (1st Edition – October 1999). Sri Lanka army: 50 years on, 1949–1999 ISBN 978-955-8089-02-6

Further reading

See also


Infantry weapons

Type Origin Quantity Notes
Rocket artillery
RM-70 Multiple rocket launcher }]] Czechoslovakia 22[66] 122.4 mm Multiple rocket launcher
BM-21 Multiple rocket launcher }]] Soviet Union 5[71] 122.4 mm Multiple rocket launcher
Towed artillery
Type 66 152 mm gun-howitzer }]] China 40[66] 152 mm gun-howitzer
Type 59 130mm field gun }]] China 40[66] 130 mm field gun
Type 60 122mm howitzer }]] China 74[66] 122 mm howitzer
Ordnance QF 25 pounder }]] United Kingdom N/A field guns – Ceremonial Gun Troop
Ordnance QF 75 mm }]] United Kingdom N/A field guns – Ceremonial Gun Troop
M-43 }]] Soviet Union 55[66] 160 mm heavy mortar
Type 86 (W86) }]] China 55 120 mm towed mortar
Type 84 (W84) }]] China N/A 82 mm mortar
Type 89 (W89) }]] China N/A 60 mm light mortar
Weapon Locating Radar
AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder Radar }]] United States N/A Weapon Locating and Counter-battery Radar
SLC-2 Radar }]] China N/A Weapon Locating and Counter-battery Radar
RM-70 Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher - Sri Lanka Army


Type Origin Quantity Notes
Main Battle Tanks
T-55/T-55AM2 }]] Soviet Union 62[66]
Type 69 }]] China 20+[67]
Type 59 }]] China 80+
Light Tanks
Type 63 }]] China N/A Amphibious
Infantry fighting vehicles
BMP-3 }]] Soviet Union 45[68]
BMP-2 }]] Soviet Union 49[66]
BMP-1 }]] Soviet Union 13[66]
Armoured personnel carriers
Norinco Type 89 (YW534) }]] China N/A[69] Tracked
Type 85 (YW531H) }]] China 30 Tracked, Amphibious
Type 63 (YW531) }]] China N/A[70] Tracked
BTR-80 }]] Soviet Union 25[66] wheeled
Type 92 (WZ551) }]] China 200 wheeled
Unibuffel }]] Sri Lanka 53+ Locally manufactured, Mine-protected APC
Unicorn }]] Sri Lanka 60+ Locally manufactured, Mine-protected APC
Buffel }]] South Africa 31[66] Mine-protected APC
Engineering Support Vehicles
VT-55 }]] Soviet Union 16[71] Armoured recovery vehicle
MT-55A }]] Soviet Union 8[72] Armoured vehicle-launched bridge
Sri Lanka Army MT-55A Armored Vehicle-launched Bridge pulled by Tatra T815 Truck
Sri Lanka Army BTR80
Type 89 (YW534) Armored Fighting Vehicles
Unibuffel MK II Armored Personnel Carrier - Sri Lanka Army
Sri Lanka Army WZ551 APC


Sri Lanka also continues to receive a variety of weapons from Britain, India Pakistan, Israel and other former suppliers.[63][65]

In recent years, Sri Lanka has become increasingly reliant on China for weapons.[63] This is due to most European nations and the United States Governments passing regulations about the selling of weaponry to nations which are suffering from internal conflict.[64] However in light of recent attacks by the LTTE, the United States has expressed its intent to maintain military training assistance and possibly increase it should the violence continue.

To meet the threat posed by predominantly the LTTE, Army purchased modern military hardware including 50-caliber heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, Night Vision Devices, 106 mm recoilless rifles, 60 mm and 81 mm mortars, 40 mm grenade launchers and some sniper rifles. Refurbished armored personnel carriers were added to the 'A' vehicle fleet of the 1st Reece Regiment, Sri Lanka Armoured Corps. These APCs enabled the Armoured Corps to have their own assault troops to provide close contact protection to their Alvis Saladin and Ferret Scout Cars which were vulnerable to anti-tank weapons. The capability of the Sri Lanka Artillery was enhanced with the introduction of Ordnance QF 25 pounders.[37][60] Chinese-made 122 mm, 130 mm and 152 mm howitzers were introduced to the Sri Lankan Army in 1995 and 1998 whilst 122 mm Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL), were first used in 2000 by the Sri Lanka Army.[61] Though the weapons were obsolete at the time of purchase, security forces found them to be successful in combat. Land mines proved to be the most lethal threat to personnel, as a number of mines were deployed against unprotected trucks and buses by the LTTE in the northern and eastern Provinces. These land mines weighed approximately 50 – 100 kg, against which no armoured vehicle that the SLA possessed was able to withstand the blast effect. Consequently, Armscor Buffels - South African armoured personnel carriers constructed on a Unimog chassis - were imported in quantity. By 1987 Sri Lanka's indigenous Unicorn APC had been engineered from the Buffel, followed by the improved Unibuffel class.[62] Both the Unicorn and the Unibuffel are assembled by the Sri Lanka Electrical & Mechanical Engineers.[37][60]

In the 1980s, the army expanded its range of weapons from the original stock of World War II-era British Lee–Enfield rifles, Sten Submachine guns, Vickers machine guns, Bren machine guns, 6-inch coastal guns, Daimler Armoured Cars, Bren Gun Carriers,[59] 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, 3.7 inch heavy anti-aircraft guns and 4.2-inch heavy mortars as well as post war Alvis Saladins, Alvis Saracen, Ferrets and Shorland S55s. New sources of weaponry in the mid-to-late 1970s included the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and China – countries with which the leftist Bandaranaike government had close ties. China continued to be an important source of arms well into the 1990s.[37]


Many officers commencing with Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Thambiraja were appointed to command this unit from time to time. The first women’s corps officer to command the unit was Lieutenant Colonel Kumudini Weerasekara in 1992 and as of 2007 there were three female officers of the rank of Major General. At present there is 2 regular regiments and 5 volunteer regiments in the Women’s Corps.[57][58]

To meet the operational requirements in the field areas, the 2nd Volunteer northern and eastern parts of the island.

Women soldiers and officers serve in varied specialized fields in the Service, such as control tower operators, electronic warfare technicians, radio material teletypists, automotive mechanics, aviation supply personnel, cryptographers, doctors, combat medic, lawyers, engineers and even aerial photographers.[56]

The officer cadets was trained in Britain. Soldier Candidates were required to be between eighteen and twenty years old and to have passed the General Common Entrance (Ordinary level) examinations, while the Officer candidates must have passed the Advanced Level. Enlistment entailed a five-year service commitment (the same as for men), and recruits were not allowed to marry during this period. In the sixteen-week training course at the Army Training Center at the Diyatalawa Sri Lanka Military Academy, cadets were put through a program of drill and physical training similar to the men's program, with the exception of weapons and battle craft training. Female recruits were paid according to the same scale as the men, but were limited to service in nursing, communications, and clerical work. In late 1987, the first class of women graduates from the Viyanini Army Training Center were certified to serve as army instructors. But, from late 1987 – after hostilities began, the first batch of women graduates from the British Army's Women's Corps Center certified to serve as Army Instructors.[55]

Women in the Sri Lanka Army

Over 23,790 Sri Lankan armed forces personnel were killed since begin of the civil war in 1981 to its end in 2009, this includes 11 general officers killed in active duty or assassinated.[49] 659 service personnel were killed due to the second JVP insurrection from 1987 to 1990. 53 service personnel were killed and 323 were wounded in the first JVP insurrection from 1971 to 1972.[50] Notable fallen members includes;

Notable fallen members

The Parama Weera Vibhushanaya is the highest award for valour awarded in the Sri Lankan armed forces. Army recipients include;

Parama Weera Vibhushanaya recipients

Since the Sri Lankan armed forces are all volunteer services, all personal in the Sri Lanka Army have volunteered as regular personnel or reservists. This should not be confused with the traditional term volunteers used for reservists or reservist units. Recruitment of the personal are carried island wide with a restrictions in the northern and eastern provinces during the civil war in those areas. The Rifle Corps is the only territorial unit that carries out recruitment from a specific area. In June 2009, Sri Lanka announced plans to create a "Tamil regiment" to promote integration in the army[48]

In late 1987, the army had a total estimated strength of up to 40,000 troops, about evenly divided between regular army personnel and reservists on active duty. The approximately 20,000 regular army troops represented a significant increase over the 1983 strength of only 12,000. Aggressive recruitment campaigns following the 1983 riots raised this number to 16,000 by early 1985.[37] By 1990 the army had expanded to over 90,000 personnel and by 2007, it had expanded to over 120,000.[3]

The Sri Lanka Army presently stands at 200,000 strong[2] including 2,960 women plus and 58,000 reservists.[47]


Training establishments

[45] on their request as well as many other countries in military education regarding civilian rescue, jungle combat, and guerilla warfare etc.United States ArmyThe Sri Lankan Army has also provided special training to the

As the armed forces of Sri Lanka have a limited indigenous training facilities, especially in advanced roles, they have depended greatly on military training provided by foreign countries. The counterinsurgency techniques.[37]

Training for the new recruits are carried out by the Army Training School in Maduru Oya at several locations followed by additional training (both officers and other ranks) at the Infantry Training Centre in Minneriya, the Combat Training School in Ampara, while non-commissioned officers receive training at the Non-commissioned Officers Training School at Kala Oya. All these establishments come under the control of the Directorate of Training, Army Headquarters. Specialist and additional training is given by specialist training schools, regimental training centers and individual field units.[36][37]

Basic officer training is carried out at the Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA) (formally the Army Training Center) situated in Diyatalawa, in the Badulla District. The officer cadets graduating from the academy are commissioned as officers in the regular and volunteer forces. The course for officer cadets runs for ninety weeks and includes training in tactics and administration which helps prepare the cadets to take up the positions of platoon commanders. The course consisted of military and academic subjects and also trained the cadets physically. The course helps to promote leadership qualities and the understanding of each one’s role as an officer and a servant of the state. Due to the lack of officers within the lower levels, the training process was sped up in the 1980s by developing a short commission course. The cadets were given a training of fifty-six weeks and devoted themselves to continue their careers in the military with the ten years of service for regular army officers and five years of service for volunteer officers.

Junior field officers of the army and their counterparts in the Navy and Air Force are given advanced training and education at the Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC) at Batalanda, Makola which was established in 1997 as the Army Command and Staff College.

General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) formed in 1981 and situated in Ratmalana, fourteen kilometers south of Colombo, is Sri Lanka's only university specializing in defense studies. Each year, approximately fifty cadets from all three services are admitted to the university (aged 18–22) to participate in a three-year program of academic work and basic training.[36][37]


Independent Brigades
Independent Divisions
Security Forces Headquarters - South (SFHQ-S)[42][43]
Security Forces Headquarters - Mullaittivu (SFHQ-MLT)[38]
Security Forces Headquarters - Kilinochchi (SFHQ-KLN)[38][41]
Security Forces Headquarters - East (SFHQ-E)
Security Forces Headquarters - Wanni (SFHQ-W)[38]
Security Forces Headquarters - Jaffna (SFHQ-J)


Force formations

In other parts of the country, there are Area and Sub-Area Headquarters. Armour, Artillery, Engineers and Signals Units are grouped under Brigade Headquarters of their own arm; Armored Brigade, Artillery Brigade and so on.

Each SFHQ and most divisions are commanded by a General Officer Commanding in the rank of Major General. A SFHQ has several divisions under its command and each division is further divided into brigades. Each brigade is commanded by an officer in the rank of Brigadier and has a number of Infantry battalions, support arms (Artillery, Engineers and Signals) and support services (Service Corps, Engineering Services, Ordnance Corps, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) under assigned to it. There are also several independent brigade (Air Mobile Brigade, Armored Brigade, etc.)

Organized and controlled by the Army General Staff at Army HQ, various formations are raised from time to time to suit various security requirements and operation in the country and overs seas. The Army at present has deployed 12 Divisions, 7 task forces and several independent brigades. Except for the 11 Division based at the Panagoda Cantonment which is responsible for the maintenance of capability for the defence of the capital, all other divisions, task forces and brigades are deployed for operations in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, coming under six regional commands known as Security Forces Headquarters, which are the Security Forces Headquarters Jaffna (SFHQ-J), Wanni (SFHQ-W), East (SFHQ-E), Kilinochchi (SFHQ-KLN), Mullaittivu (SFHQ-MLT) & South (SFHQ-S)

Operational Command

Name Headquarters Subunits
Armoured Corps Rock House Army Camp, Colombo Eight regular regiments and a volunteer regiment.
Artillery Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Seven regular regiments and two volunteer regiments.
Engineers Army Headquarters, Colombo Six regular regiments and one volunteer regiment.
Signals Corps Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Seven regular regiments and one volunteer regiment with Signals workshop and Information Technology Unit (11 SLSC)
Light Infantry Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Seventeen regular battalions, Nine volunteer battalions.
Sinha Regiment Ambepussa Camp, Ambepussa Seven regular battalions, five volunteer battalions and a headquarters battalion.
Gemunu Watch Kuruwita Army Camp, Ratnapura Nine regular units, four volunteer units.
Gajaba Regiment Saliyapura Camp, Anuradhapura Twelve regular battalions and five volunteer battalions.
Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment Boyagane Camp, Kurunegala Eight regular battalions and four volunteer battalions.
Mechanized Infantry Regiment N/A four regular battalions and one volunteer battalions.
President's Guard Unknown Unknown
Commando Regiment Ganemulla, Gampaha Four regular regiments.
Special Forces Regiment Seeduwa, Gampaha Three regular regiments.
Military Intelligence Corps Polhengoda, Colombo Two regular battalions.
Engineer Services Regiment Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Three regular regiments and a volunteer regiment.
Service Corps Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda six regular units and one volunteer unit.
Medical Corps Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Four regular units and one volunteer unit.
Ordnance Corps Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Three regular ordnance battalions and one volunteer ordnance battalion.
Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Slave Island, Colombo Seven regular regiments and one volunteer regiment.
Corps of Military Police Polhengoda, Colombo Six regular regiments.
General Service Corps Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda Three regular unit and a volunteer unit. With 3 & 4 SLAGSC (Pay & Recored)
Women's Corps Regtl Centre, Borella Two regular unit and 5 volunteers unit.
Rifle Corps Army Headquarters, Colombo Two volunteer battalions.
Pioneer Corps Headquarters, Battharamulla, Pelawattha. One volunteer unit.
National Guard Kurunegala 32 volunteer battalions.

Regiments & Corps

Like the commando regiment was also established in 1986. Support for the infantry is provided by an armoured regiment, five reconnaissance regiments, three mechanized infantry regiments, five field artillery regiments, a rocket artillery regiment, three commando regiments, three special forces regiments, six field engineering regiments, five signals battalions, a medical corps, and a variety of logistics units.[37]

The headquarters of field formations each have its own staff. For instance a divisional headquarters is divided into a GS branch as an AQ branch, each headed by a Colonel and is responsible for operations & training and administration & logistics respectively. Similarly, a Brigade Major and Major AQ is responsible for operations and administration in a brigade.[36]

The Army Headquarters is divided into a number of branches, namely the General Staff (GS) branch responsible for coordination of operations and training and the Adjutant General's (AGs) branch responsible for personal administration, welfare, medical services and rehabilitation. The Quarter Master General's (QMGs) branch is responsible for feeding, transport, movement and construction and maintenance. The Master General of Ordnance's (MGOs) branch is responsible for procurement and maintenance of vehicles and special equipment.[36] The Military Secretary's Branch is responsible for handling all matters pertaining to officers such as promotions, postings and discipline. Each branch is headed by an officer in the rank of Major General who is directly responsible to the Commander of the Army for the smooth functioning of the Branch. Under each Branch, there are several Directorates, each headed by a Brigadier.[36]


The professional head of the army is the Commander of the Army, at present Lieutenant General Crishantha de Silva. He is assisted by the Chief of Staff of the Army, currently Major General Jagath Dias. The Commandant of the Volunteer Force is head of the Army Volunteer Force and is responsible for the administration and recruitment of all reserve units and personal. The Army Headquarters, situated in Colombo is the main administrative and the operational headquarters of the Sri Lanka Army.

Organization Structure

The Sri Lanka Army currently participates in several major overseas deployments:


Due to the Sri Lankan Civil War the army has been on a constant mobilized (including reservist) state since the 1980s (except for a brief period from 2002–2005). The majority of the army as been deployed in the North and Eastern provinces of the country, which includes 14 Divisions coming under six operational headquarters and 2 independent Divisions and several independent Brigades. The army is also based in other parts of the island for internal security including a Division for the defense of the capital.


As of present, the bulk of the Sri Lankan Army is deployed for domestic defensive and combat operations, while a sizable foreign deployment is maintained.

Military gathering on Galle Face Green in Colombo.

Current deployments

In November 2007, 114[26] members of the 950 member Sri Lankan Army peacekeeping mission in Haiti were accused of sexual misconduct and abuse.[27][28] 108 members, including 3 officers of the 950-member-strong Sri Lanka peacekeeping contingent is being sent back after being implicated in alleged misconduct and sexual abuse.[29] UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said: "The United Nations and the Sri Lankan government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred."[28] Sri Lankan officials claimed that there was little tangible evidence on this case.[26] After and inquiry the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) concluded "acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and occurred usually at night, and at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed." The OIOS is assisting in the pending legal proceedings initiated by the Sri Lankan Government and has said charges should include rape "because it involves children under 18 years of age".[30]

Peacekeeping Sex Scandal

The Sri Lanka Army has taken part in two peacekeeping missions with United Nations over the course of its history. First assignment was in the Congo (ONUC) (1960–1963). Most recently, following the signing of a ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and the LTTE in 2002, Sri Lankan forces were invited by the United Nations to be part of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. In the process of the peacekeeping operations, two soldiers were killed in a raid in Petit-Goave.[23] After over 6 months of service, the first contingent of the peacekeeping force returned to Sri Lanka on May 17, 2005.[24] In December 2007, 7th rotation of the Sri Lankan contingent had been deployed with a force of 991 officers and other ranks, many of the those deployed have been awarded the United Nations Medal for their services.[25]


Major combat operations

Since 1980 the army has undertaken many operations against the LTTE rebels. The major operations conducted by the army eventually led to the recapture of Jaffna and other rebel strongholds. In 19 May 2009 Sri Lankan army declare the victory of war as they found the dead body of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. This marked the end of the war, with the LTTE ceasing to exist in Sri Lanka as a result of prolonged military offensives conducted by Sri Lanka army.[17] The Sri Lankan Armed Forces, including the army, have been accused of committing war crimes during the war, particularly during the final stages.[18][19] A panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the civil war found "credible allegations" which, if proven, indicated that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the Tamil Tigers.[20][21][22]

After successfully defeating the insurgency led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1971, the army was confronted with a new conflict, this time with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other Tamil militant groups. The war escalated to the point where India was asked to intervene as a peacekeeping force. This was later seen as a tactical error, as the Indian Peace Keeping Force united nationalist elements such as the JVP to politically support the LTTE in their call to evict the IPKF. The war with the LTTE was halted following the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 2002 with the help of international mediation. However, renewed violence broke out in December 2005 and following the collapse of peace talks, the Army has been involved in the heavy fighting that has resumed in the north and east of the country.

Sri Lanka Army Flags


In 1962 several volunteer officers attempted a military coup, which was stopped hours before it was launched. This attempted coup affected the military to a great extent, since the government mistrusted the military, it reduced the size and growth of the army, especially the volunteer force, with several units being disbanded. In May 1972, when Ceylon was proclaimed a republic and changed its name to from the Dominion of Ceylon to the Republic of Sri Lanka, all Army units were renamed accordingly.[16]

During the 1950s and 1960s the army was called apron to carry to essential services when the workers went on strike which were organized by the left wing parties and trade unions for various reasons, the most notable was the 1961 Colombo Port strike, during which ships threatened to bypass Colombo port and the country almost staved. To counter these common strikes several units were formed, who were employed in development work when there were no strikes.[15]

Due to a lack of any major external threats the growth of the army was slow, and the primary duties of the army quickly moved towards internal security by the mid-1950s, the same time as the first Ceylonese Commander Major General Anton Muttukumaru took command of the army. The first internal security operation of the Ceylon Army began in 1952, code named Operation Monty to counter the influx of illegal South Indian immigrants brought in by smugglers on the north-western cost, in support of Royal Ceylon Navy coastal patrols and police operations. This was expanded and renamed as Task Force Anti-Illicit Immigration (TaFII) in 1963 and continued up to 1981 when it was disbanded. The Army was mobilized to help the police to restore peace under provincial emergency regulations during the 1953 hartal, the 1956 Gal Oya Valley riots and in 1958 it was deployed for the first time under emergency regulations throughout the island during the 1958 Riots.[15]

The initial requirement was to raise an artillery regiment, an engineer squadron, an infantry battalion, a medical unit, and a service corps company. For much of the 1950s the army was preoccupied with the task of building itself and training existing and new personal. To this aim the British Army Training Team (BATT) advisory group carried out training for ex-members of the CDF within the Ceylon Army, senior officers were sent to the British Army Staff College, Camberley and some attached to units of the British Army of the Rhine to gain field experience. New officers were sent for training at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst which continued until the 1960s and both officers and other ranks were sent to specialist training courses in Britain, India, Pakistan and Malaya. There were no formations and all units were structured to directly function under the Army Headquarters. However temporary field headquarters were to be formed at the time requirement arose.[14]

At the end of World War II, CDF which had increased in size during the war began demobilization.In 1948 Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain, becoming a Dominion within the commonwealth and a year earlier Ceylon entered into the bi-lateral Anglo-Ceylonese Defence Agreement of 1947. This followed by the Army Act No. 17 of 1949 which was passed by Parliament on April 11, 1949 and formalized in Gazette Extraordinary No. 10028 of October 10, 1949 marked the creation of the Ceylon Army, consisting of a regular and a volunteer force, the later being the successor of the disbanded CDF.[13][14] Therefor October 10, 1949 is considered the Ceylon Army was raised, and October 10 is celebrated annually as Army day. The Defence Agreement of 1947 provided the assurance that British would come to the aid of Ceylon in the event it was attacked by a foreign power and provided British military advisers to build up the country's military. Brigadier James Sinclair, Earl of Caithness was appointed as general officer commanding Ceylon Army, as such becoming the first commander of the Ceylon Army.

Brigadier James Sinclair, Earl of Caithness inspecting a guard of honour wearing khaki drill.


In 1939, the CDF was mobilized and an enormous expansion took place which required the raising of new units such as the Ceylon Signals Corps, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (Ceylon) and also the Colombo Town Guard, which had been previously disbanded, but was later re-formed to meet military requirements. During the Second World War, Britain assumed direct control over the Armed Forces of Ceylon.[12]

During the First World War, many volunteers from the Defence Force travelled to Great Britain and joined the British Army, and many of them were killed in action. One of them mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Private Jacotine of the CLI, who was the last man left alive in his unit at the Battle of Lys, and who continued to fight for 20 minutes before he was killed.[11]

In 1910 the name of the military was formally changed to the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF). It continued to grow throughout the early period of the 20th century. The CDF saw active service when a contingent of the Ceylon Mounted Infantry (CMI) in 1900, and a contingent of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps (CPRC) in 1902, took part in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Their services were recognized by the presentation in 1902 of a colour to the CMI, and a presentation in 1904 of a banner to the CPRC. In 1922, the CDF was honoured by the presentation of the King's and Regimental colours to the Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI).[9]

First Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka Hon. D.S.Senanayaka visiting the 1st battalion of the CLI at the Echelon Square and watching volunteers being trained to handle light machine guns.
Ceylon Defence Force

The second phase in the employment of non-British personnel commenced in 1881 after the enactment of an ordinance designed to authorize the creation of a Volunteer Corps in the island. It was designated the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers (CLIV). This move compensated for the disbandment of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment in 1874. The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers was originally administered as a single unit. However, over the years various sections of the volunteers grew large enough to become independent from their parent unit. The different units that emerged from the Volunteer Force were the

Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers

In 1803 the 3rd Ceylon Regiment was created with Moluccans and recruits from Penang. All these regiments fought alongside British troops in the Kandyan wars which began in 1803. Throughout the following years, more Sinhalese and Malays were recruited to these regiments, and in 1814 the 4th Regiment was raised, which was composed entirely of African troops. It was later renamed as the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. Eventually, the Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to the British in 1815, and with that they gained control over the whole island. Resistance to British occupation cropped up almost instantly. During the first half-century of occupation, the British faced a number of uprisings, and were forced to maintain a sizable army in order to guarantee their control over the island. After the Matale Rebellion led by Puran Appu in 1848, in which a number of Sinhalese recruits defected to the side of the rebels, the recruitment of Sinhalese to the British forces was temporarily halted.[9]

Initially the British stationed their forces, which included naval vessels, artillery troops and infantry, to defend the island nation from other foreign powers, using the natural harbour of Trincomalee as their headquarters in Sri Lanka. In 1796, the Swiss and Malay mercenaries who were previously in the service of the Dutch were transferred to the British East India Company. While the Swiss De Meuron's Regiment was eventually disbanded in Canada in 1822, the Malays, who initially formed a Malay Corps, were converted into the 1st Ceylon Regiment in 1802 and placed under a British commanding officer. In the same year, the British became the first foreign power to raise a Sinhalese unit, which was named the 2nd Ceylon Regiment, also known as the Sepoy Corps.[9]

The British Empire then ousted the Dutch from the coastal areas of the country, and sought to conquer the independent Kandyan Kingdom. In the face of repeated British assaults, the Kandyans were forced into a degree of guerilla warfare and fared well against their superior British adversaries.[9]

British rule (1798–1948 AD)

In 1602 Dutch explorers first landed in Sri Lanka, which was then under Portuguese control. By 1658 they had completely ousted the Portuguese from the coastal regions of the island. Much like the Portuguese, they did not employ locals in their military, and preferred to live in isolation, pursuing their interests in trade and commerce. Like the Portuguese, they defended their forts with their own forces, but unlike the Portuguese, Dutch forces employed Swiss and Malay mercenaries. The Dutch Forts in Jaffna, Galle, Matara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee were sturdily built and are considered a tribute to their military engineering skills. Also, like the Portuguese, the Dutch focussed on maritime power and although they had the capability to develop and use local forces, they chose to isolate themselves from the local population.[9]

The Portuguese are credited with the introduction of European-style fortresses to Sri Lanka during this era. Although some locals already possessed military training and fighting experience, there is no evidence that the Portuguese employed local inhabitants into their own forces. Thus the Portuguese were forced to restrict their presence in the island due to their small numbers and their efforts were more focused toward projecting maritime power.[9]

In the beginning of the 16th century, modern Europe first came in contact with Sri Lanka, which was then referred to as Ceylon. In 1505 a Portuguese fleet, while operating in the Indian seas against Arab traders, was blown off course and landed at Galle, on the southern coast of the island.[10] In 1517 the Portuguese re-appeared, and with the consent of the Sinhalese King established a trading post in Colombo. Having initiated contact with Sri Lanka as traders, the Portuguese soon made themselves political masters of the western seaboard. Numerous forts were soon established, and features of European civilization were introduced.[9]

Portuguese and Dutch rule (1505–1796 AD)

Parts of Sri Lanka came under the control of three colonial European powers, namely the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch in the 17th century and the British in the 18th century. Yet, until the entire island was ceded to the British in 1815, regional kingdoms maintained most of their independent defence forces and were able to successfully repulse repeated thrusts by the European armies. However the British, unlike their counterparts, were not primarily restricted to maritime power, and thus had the capability to bring the entire island under their control and to integrate locals into the British defence forces.[9]

Colonial era

Other Sri Lankan artillery. Vijayabâhu I (1001) was another warrior king who dislodged Indian invaders and united the country. Parakramabahu the Great (1153) was an outstanding monarch of the Polonnaruwa period of Sri Lankan history, and his accomplishments as a military leader and a great administrator are noteworthy. His reign included a military expedition to Burma (Myanmar) in retaliation for indignities inflicted on his envoys and Burmese interference in the elephant trade. This marked the first overseas expedition in Sri Lankan military history. It is also reported that Parakramabahu's fame was such that his assistance was sought by South Indian rulers who were involved in internecine struggles. Another strong ruler in the pre-colonial era was Parâkramabâhu VI, who defeated Indian invaders, united the island and ruled it from capital Sri Jayawardhanapura, Kotte.[9] Although the known epigraphical records do not indicate that the Sri Lankan rulers had a full-time standing army at their disposal, there is evidence supported by legend, designation, name, place and tradition that prove there were 'stand-by' equestrian, elephant, and infantry divisions to ensure royal authority at all times. Militias were raised as the necessity arose, and the soldiers returned to their pursuits, mainly for farming, after their spell of military duty.[9]


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