Counter-insurgency in Kuchchaveli | Daily News
Exercise Cormorant Strike IX - 2018

Counter-insurgency in Kuchchaveli

Tri-forces’ annual Field Training Exercise culminates on Eastern seaboard
Pictures by Gayan Pushpika
Pictures by Gayan Pushpika

It was about 3.45 in the evening. The terrorists’ base located in the Kuchchaveli fishing village along the Eastern coastline was very calm. About 30 - 40 cadres were on duty and moving here and there. But they were very vigilant. Their base was surrounded with land on three sides and the clear blue sea, on the other. They were sure that there was no threat from the land. Also there was no sign of any threat from the military near the coastline. But the terrorists were always ready to face any attack, from land or sea.

Time passed by. However, in an instant, everything changed. The terrorists had to face an unexpected bombardment by Air Force Kafir jets right in the middle of their base. Suddenly, the entire scenario turned into a battle zone. Now the terrorists were being shot one by one. The next moment put them into another difficulty: Special Operations Force (SOF) troops emerging from the sea launched an attack on the camp, further weakening the terrorists.

Troopers continued the attack on the enemy despite the return fire. They gradually entered the base and established a bridgehead. A few minutes later, the mechanised infantry on tanks linked up with the SOF troops who cleared the insurgents’ base camp. Now, the base was totally destroyed and surrendered to the SOFs. It was the completion of the mission conducted by the Special Operations Forces of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force.

Before May 2009, this entire scenario was a reality. But since the end of the conflict in the North and East in May 2009, the Tri-Forces have not faced such an experience so far. However, the Special Operations Forces (SOFs) of the Tri-Forces staged this demonstration at the final phase of ‘Exercise Cormorant Strike IX – 2018’ last week in Kuchchaveli. Generally known as the ‘Critical Engagement’ phase, this phase demonstrated a joint operation by the Tri-Forces against the enemy.

Although the 30-year-long war in the country was concluded by defeating the LTTE, the defenders of the country must maintain their power and ability to face any threat even in the future. In this context, continuous training and rehearsing is essential and so, a joint tri-service mega Field Training Exercise (FTX) namely, ‘Exercise Cormorant Strike’ was introduced in 2010 by the Sri Lanka Army.

‘Exercise Cormorant Strike’, also known as the ‘Diyakawa Military Exercise’, has since 2010 become the flagship annual event of the Sri Lanka Army. The exercise was initiated on a concept of the then Defence Secretary with the aim of developing a competent Special Operation Forces soldier and a conceptual framework for the employment of these forces.

The exercise was first conducted in 2010 in the general area of Mannar with the participation of 2,500 soldiers for nine days. During this exercise, 40 naval vessels and aircraft including the SLNS Shakthi, Kafirs, and MI24, Y12 and MI 17 helicopters were deployed. Army Commandos and Special Forces were directly involved in the ground battle and the amphibious landing was jointly coordinated by senior security officials of the Tri-Forces.

Sharing of military competency, exercising the elites in joint nature ‘interoperability’, experiencing of complex environments and exercising the chain of command under simulated scenarios are among the major objectives behind the realisation of this annual event. Further, Exercise Cormorant Strike seeks to develop common understanding among the Armed Forces, efficient integration among the different arms of the Tri-Forces and theoretical understanding of military subjects. The Diyakawa Military Exercise also seeks to build a platform for special operations, exercising the fundamentals of warfare and integrating advanced technology into special operations.

The FTX encompasses military operations such as patrolling, infiltration, counter-infiltration, reconnaissance and surveillance, combat tracking, demolitions, raids, ambushes, rescue missions, cat sniping and urban fighting, VIP protection, HALO-casting, combat diving, and cyber security.

Held every year since 2010, this year Exercise Cormorant Strike reached the ninth edition with renewed strength and complexity.

Exercise Cormorant Strike IX - 2018 was launched from the mock operational headquarters located at the Infantry Training Centre in Minneriya on September 6. It was held for 20 days covering the Eastern, Central, Western, and North Central Provinces and culminated on September 26, when the Critical Engagement phase was staged at Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee in the Eastern Province. This year’s exercise portrayed a counter-insurgency scenario, which appears to be the most likely national and international security threat in the 21st century.

Exercise Cormorant Strike IX - 2018 was developed under the guidance of Army Commander Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake and a special committee. Kilinochchi Commander Major General Niyshshanka Ranawana was this year’s Exercise Director, while Brigadier Krishantha Gnanaratne and Colonel Upul Ihalage served as Deputy Directors.

This year, over 3, 000 soldiers of the Tri-Forces as well as foreign military personnel participated. About 2,500 infantrymen including Commandos, Special Forces and Mechanised Infantrymen, 400 Sailors, and 200 Airmen joined the FTX along with 64 foreign military personnel either as participants or observers, representing 19 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Sudan, Turkey, UK, USA and Zambia.

Cormorant Strike IX - 2018 incorporated the most modern military techniques, adding new features in specific operation segments. Based on a hypothetical scenario, the Exercise incorporated Web GIS software for operations, improvised digital bird tables and smart boards, separate joint Naval operations, joint night operations, operations conducted by both Special Forces and Commandos in the same area, and a parachute jump with full combat gear, to highlight a few.

Adding a novel item this year, participants also joined a VIP rescue demonstration at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre premises in Colombo. This was witnessed by State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene.

The final operation of the FTX was the ‘Critical Engagement’ phase, which conducted at Kuchchaveli, Trincomalee, before a mammoth gathering. ‘Critical Engagement’ displayed how a simulated multi-pronged joint amphibious attack on enemy hideouts could be carried out with precision at short notice, in a setting considered hostile, most challenging and exciting. For this mock operation, the Commandos and Special Forces were simultaneously joined by MI24 and MIG fighter jets and Naval fighter craft.

A panel of exercise directors, commanded by Exercise Director Major General Niyshshanka Ranawana, with the coordination of the Army Directorate of Training, headed by Army Training Director General Major General Aruna Wanniarachchi, planned and executed the whole of Exercise Cormorant Strike IX - 2018 in a professional manner.

State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Army Commander Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake, the Navy Commander, the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Air Force, invitees and foreign military officials witnessed the final operation at Kuchchaveli.

What foreign military officers said...

After the conclusion of ‘Critical Engagement’, the foreign participants expressed

their views of the FTX:

“I participated in this exercise last year too. I gained a lot of knowledge. We joined the apprehend and ambush missions.

We had a lot of new experiences. We too have such an exercise in Indonesia called ‘Tribuana’. We hope Sri Lanka would join Tribuana in Indonesia next year.”

- Major Borneo, Indonesian Military Academy

“I think it is a brand new exercise for foreign participants. Our team participated in many missions during this exercise. They gained practical experience.

The quick deployment of troops on attack and application of tactics is very great. We thank the Sri Lanka Army for its hospitality.”

- Lieutenant Wu, Chinese Army

“This is the second time I am participating in this exercise. This year the exercise is better coordinated. The scope of the exercise has been expanded and broadened this year. Overall, the exercise setting is good. Foreign troops have definitely benefitted from this. We also have such exercises in our country. From these exercises we come to know something new and different.”

- Colonel Sajjad, Pakistan Army

“I participated as an observer. The setting of the Exercise, the coordination, movements of troops, and execution of tasks was great. The Sri Lanka Army is progressing well. We also have such Special Forces’ joint training.”

Lt. Colonel Charles Swana, Zambian Army


 

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