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Sri Lanka's sixteenth aerodrome:

Iranamadu-the crown jewel in Lanka's conquest to prosperity



Air Force officers pose for the cameras after successfully completing th e mission
At the initial stage when the land was cleared for the airstrip
After layering of the runway
The take off of the Air Force plane from the Iranamadu airstrip

With its history dating back to the 5th Century, the Iranamadu tank and its surrounding zone herald the dawn of a new age. Once a segment of a seemingly endless ocean of scrub jungle, once the spawning ground of ruthless terrorism, this relatively uninhabited patch of land a few kilometres away from the town of Kilinochchi sets ready on its starting blocks awaiting the call for take-off.

Only a few years ago having held the infamous distinction of being the hub of terrorist aviation activity, Iranamadu now sets ready to connect the Northern mainland of Sri Lanka to the rest of the country and literally to the whole world through the medium of air. It is now only a matter of time before Iranamadu officially becomes Sri Lanka's sixteenth aerodrome.

Made famous by the giant irrigation tank believed to be constructed by King Dhathusena, Iranamadu gained international notoriety during the LTTE's separatist war. Nevertheless, Iranamadu always held a legacy of being the Northern mainland's connecting node to the rest of the world. Indeed the old Kandy - Jaffna A9 highway ran through Iranamadu until the road was shifted to its present lay. It was a stretch of this old abandoned road that the LTTE cleared up and used as a temporary airstrip with a meagre cover of tar. Nevertheless, as the Security Forces gained control over the area, the terrorists abandoned the airstrip whilst completely destroying it using back hoes - in their typical style. Effectively the airstrip was rendered to a "Beyond Economical Repair" state. Upon gaining control of it, the now defunct airstrip was placed in the custody of the SLAF. There laid two options. Either the site could be allowed to be gradually absorbed by the jungle, or the environment could be given with a new lease of life. With a sense of enthusiasm and vigour, the SLAF chose the latter option and immediately began about it. A detachment of approximately 20 personnel was placed on site under the command of Wing Commander Hailey Rupasinghe. Indeed this was a new challenge to the SLAF civil engineers. Although the custodian of 14 airfields in the country, this was the first time in its history of 62 years that the SLAF set about constructing an airfield from scratch.

Slowly but surely the momentum was built. The infrastructure facilities at the SLAF detachment improved and it graduated to Station level in 2011. With the immediately required infrastructure in place, the mega scale thrust in project work commenced in February 2012 where the layering of the runway itself was attempted. The onus of this task befell the SLAF's Rapid Runway Repair Wing (RRRW). Utilising their expertise and knowledge, augmented with the facilities such as the newly established Materials Testing Laboratory, the RRRW made steady progress. 85 percent of the work was completed in 11 months and the project would have surged on had not the notorious North Eastern monsoon which is known to unleash a fierce torrent of rainwater within a very short period had its way.

Strengthening itself with four layers instead of the usual two layers needed to support a light aircraft, the Iranamadu airfield is ready to receive even a fully loaded C 130 Hercules - the SLAF's largest transport aircraft. Although in its infancy, the airfield is already fledged with a fully functional runway light system, taxi way as well as apron light system. In order to ensure effective and safe aerodrome operations, the Iranamadu airfield has been even designated with its own radio controlling frequency leading to the establishment of Iranamadu's own Air Traffic Control services.

Spanning a length of 1,500 metres and width of 25 metres measure has been placed to quietly run down the rainwater with drains running 40 metres away from the centreline. The 100 m x 60 m apron is perhaps the beginning of what might evolve into a larger pad. With the third layer of runway surface in place, the Commander of the Air Force Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrema personally flew a Y 12 aircraft and made a test landing.

In the true spirit of nation building in a post war context, the construction of the runway was undertaken by the SLAF utilising its own man power. The earth requirement was fulfilled from the surrounding area and the metal requirement was provided from SLAF's own quarry in Mamaduwa, Vavunia. The runway, taxiway and apron light system, which would have cost upto a whopping 8 million rupees was manufactured by the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Wing of the SLAF with a price tag under 1 million rupees. Thus, the SLAF's role in this respect has been multi functional. In addition to providing with Northern Sri Lanka its own aerodrome, the SLAF also saved millions (perhaps billions in years to come) to the state coffers. However, the million dollar question would be, why Iranamadu? Why re-build a runway used by terrorists? The answer lies in strategic and proactive thinking. Kilinochchi is being revived as a major city in the Northern mainland of the country where it will serve as a hub linking Jaffna via Elephant pass, Pooneryn, Mullaitivu and Vavunia. Thus, any form of air travel to this region will have to take place either via Vavunia or Palaly, which proves to be a negative aspect considering the distance involved. Hence, to catalyse the development of the North it was foreseen that Iranamadu be developed to a fully fleged aerodrome notwithstanding its notorious past. Allowing its infamous contribution to terrorism to recede to the sands of time, the Iranamadu airfield will stand as a true testimony of reconciliation between the once lost North and the South. Furthermore with the picturesque Iranamadu reservoir in sight, This could be a major tourist destination. Iranamadu has always been in the cynosure of all events. Being the heart of the Northern irrigation system, the once forlorn patch of scrub jungle will set to be a crown jewel in Sri Lanka's conquest to prosperity, peace and happiness.

Information courtesy of Sri Lanka Air Force

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