Tamil Tigers ruin Sri Lanka military plans: observers

COLOMBO, Oct 25, 2007 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels have dealt a serious blow to Sri Lanka’s intelligence gathering with a devastating suicide attack that destroyed virtually its entire fleet of spy planes, observers said Thursday. Tiger guerrillas, who were widely regarded as being on the defensive, turned the tables Monday with a suicide strike that wiped out the government surveillance aircraft, which included four Israeli-made drones.

Sri Lanka’s air force, after initially denying that any damage was caused to their multi-million-dollar spy fleet, admitted that it lost eight aircraft, including a twin-turbo prop Beechcraft surveillance plane.

The spy aircraft had been the secret behind the military’s success in attacking a fleet of Tamil Tiger boats and gun-running ships, military sources said.

But analysts said this week’s Tiger attack served almost as an equaliser in the shifting battlefield fortunes, as Sri Lanka’s navy depends on the air force for maritime aerial reconnaissance and to provide cover for naval convoys.

“The loss of Mi-24 helicopter gunships is something that the air force can absorb without too much trouble, but it is difficult to manage without the air surveillance capability,” said defenc