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Heaviest Ever Underslung Operation in the History of the Sri Lanka Air Force

Published on: 9:28pm on Friday 19th June 2020
Heaviest Ever Underslung Operation in the History of the Sri Lanka Air Force
An MI-17 helicopter from the No 6 Squadron at Anuradhapura airlifted the heaviest ever external load taken on for an underslung operation in the history of the Sri Lanka Air Force this morning (19 June 2020) at Mulkirigala. An eight foot tall Buddha Statue which approximately weighed a mammoth 3.5 Tons was airlifted from the Weeraketiya Mandaduwa Grounds to the Mulkirigala Raja Maha Viharaya mountain peak. The Buddha Statue was airlifted for an approximate distance of 3 nautical miles.

The Mulikirigal Temple is located at a height of 270 meters and the Air Power of the Sri Lanka Air Force effectively employed the heavy airlift capabilities of MI-17 helicopters to transport the Buddha Statue to the designated site.

The MI-17 helicopter is specifically designed to deliver military, civilian or material payloads to locations where surface forces cannot deliver. The MI-17 Helicopters of the Sri Lanka Air Force displayed the fundamental role of Air Power Enabling Operations where the heavy lift capabilities of the MI-17 was effectively utilized in delivering a heavy material payload. 

This historical operation was conducted on the instructions of the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sumangala Dias under the supervision of the Directorate of Air Operations. The helicopter which conducted this historical underslung operation was captained by Group Captain Priyamal Fernando, the Commanding Officer of the No 6 Squadron while Wing Commander Venu Silva operated the helicopter as the Co-Pilot. A crew of 20 Officers and airman also participated in making this operation a success.

In addition to the special effort by the aircrew, a specially designed lifting platform was designed and manufactured by the General Engineering Wing at SLAF Base Katunayake under the guidance of the Commanding Officer, Group Captain Indika Wickramasinghe in order to facilitate the airlift operation of this particular Buddha Statue. The design of this lifting platform was verified to be capable of handling such a large weight by Qualified Engineering Officers of the Sri Lanka Air Force and the State Engineering Cooperation as well before being deployed for the actual mission.

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