As economies across the globe continue to contract, navies, armies, and air forces are being told, if not, “do more with less” to at least “do the same with less.” Proceedings thus asked sea-service commanders around the world: What innovative efficiencies and economies are you implementing, or considering implementing, to improve force readiness?
Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage
Having comprehensively defeated asymmetric threats of terrorism at sea that deprived Sri Lanka of many economic opportunities and development for three decades, the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) today stands at the threshold of a maritime renaissance. Since 2009, the SLN has shouldered many economic responsibilities and today is an active partner in government initiatives for economic development.
Our navy today looks at the sea lines of communication that traverse our jurisdiction with a renewed vision of security. Ignorance is no longer an excuse; the penalty paid for not safeguarding our oceans and coastline was colossal, both in terms of men and material in the past 30 years. The capacities and capabilities in maritime domain awareness, coastal surveillance, and deep-ocean patrolling that were developed during those troubled times are being put to use despite financial limitations. Our intent is to rely heavily on the combination of an existing network of shore-based sensors and human intelligence for coastal surveillance; we’ll upgrade and improve available surveillance systems, fast-attack craft, and inshore patrol craft squadrons, and invest in new offshore-patrol-vessel capacities. Measures also are under way to utilize the research-and-development knowledge and experience gained during the long conflict to enhance capabilities of naval platforms.
Maritime intelligence is another area that has been enhanced with tangible results. Our island nation experienced a surge of illicit migration—driven by economic expectations—and it is through intelligence that the unlawful activities were brought under control.
A plethora of small boats, which played a major role during the last phase of humanitarian operations, remains operationally available for littoral defense while the costly fast-attack craft are kept in reserve for contingencies. Some of our fast passenger craft—normally used to ferry troops—have been effectively employed as pleasure-cruise/sightseeing vessels in seas abundant with whales and dolphins, bringing millions to government coffers.
Having seen what has happened with some foreign navies that did not keep their fleets operational in the face of contingencies, the Sri Lanka Navy continues to thrive because it remembers well the lessons it drew from hard-earned experience.