Sri Lanka Navy

Sri Lanka Navy
Sri Lanka Navy
Sri Lanka Navy Seal.jpg
Sri Lanka Navy Insignia
Active December 9, 1950–present
Country Sri Lanka
Branch Sri Lanka Armed Forces
Role Naval and Maritime Defense
Size 48,000[1]
Part of Ministry of Defence
Naval Headquarters SLNS Parakrama, Colombo
Motto රට වට බැදි රන් ‍වැට
Rata Wata Badi Run Weta
Sinhala:"The golden fence around the country"
Anniversaries December 9 (Navy Day)
Engagements World War II
1971 Insurrection
Insurrection 1987-89
Sri Lankan Civil War
Commander of the Navy VAdm. D.W.A.S. Dissanayake, WV, RSP & Bar, VSV, USP, ndc, SLN
Admiral W.W.E.C. Fernando VSV, ndc, psc, SLN  
Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, RSP, VSV, USP, SLN
Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, RSP, VSV, USP, ndc, psc, SLN
Sri Lanka Navy
Naval Ensign of Sri Lanka.svg
Sri Lanka Navy
Volunteer Naval Force
Fast Attack Flotilla
Naval Patrolmen
Special Boat Squadron
History of the Sri Lanka Navy
Current Fleet
Historic Ships
Commander of the Navy
Naval Ranks

The Sri Lankan Navy is the naval arm of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and is classed as the most vital defense force of Sri Lanka, due to the country's island geography. It is responsible for the maritime defence of the Sri Lankan nation and its interests.

Sri Lanka, situated in the middle of major sea lanes passing through the Indian Ocean, was always a magnet for seafarers and has a long history of Naval campaigns. The current Sri Lankan Navy was established on 9 December 1950 when the Navy Act was passed for the formation of the Royal Ceylon Navy. The roots of the modern Sri Lankan Navy dates back to 1937 when the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force was established, which was renamed and absorbed into the Royal Navy as the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War II. The current name Sri Lanka Navy was constituted in 1972 when Sri Lanka becoming a Republic and the introduction of new constitution.

In recent years it has played a key role in the Sri Lankan civil war, conducting surveillance & patrol, amphibious and supply operations. During the war the navy moved from a small force focused on coastal patrols to a large combat force concentrating on asymmetric naval warfare capable of amphibious and land operations in support of counter-insurgency operation at the progressed into engagements of a new form of littoral warfare. It carried out expeditionary deployments in Indian Ocean in-order to intercept rogue arm-shipments in the high seas. The navy has its own elite special forces unit, the Special Boat Squadron.

The professional head of the navy is the Commander of the Navy, currently Vice Admiral D.W.A.S Dissanayake.[2] The Commander-in-Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is the President of the country, who heads the National Security Council, through the Ministry of Defense, which is the highest level of military command and procurement for the armed forces.[3] Operations of the Sri Lanka Navy are coordinated with the other armed forces by the Joint Operations Command. The Sri Lanka Navy has 4 offshore patrol vessels, 2 missile boats, 12 patrol boats, 6 landing ships/craft and a large number of littoral craft, along with 6 auxiliary vessels. Its personnel number 48,000 of whom approximately 15,000 are deployed for shore duties.[1]



The role of the Sri Lanka Navy is

Navy is the most vital defence force of an island nation. The maritime role is to conduct operations at sea for the defence of the nation and its interests.[4]


The Beginning and World War II

In January 1938 the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF) was created with Commander W.G. Beauchamp as Commanding Officer under ordinance No I of 1937. On 31 August 1939 at the out set of World War II, the CNVF was mobilized for war duties. Three years later, the CNVF was offered to, and accepted by the Royal Navy (RN) as a Volunteer Reserve, the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (CRNVR). It continued under Royal Navy operational and administrative command until March 1946. With the end of the war, it reverted to Ceylon Government control, though yet CRNVR in name. In the 1939-1946 period, the CRNVR carried out several operational duties, mainly at sea. Cutting its teeth on the Port Commission tugs Samson and Goliath, it later manned and operated trawlers and Antarctic whalers converted as Minesweepers and fitted out with guns, submarine detection equipment and anti-submarine weaponry. They were the HMS Overdale Wyke (the first ship to be purchased by the Government of Ceylon), HMS Okapi, HMS Semla, HMS Sambhur, HMS Hoxa, HMS Balta and HM Tugs Barnet and C 405. In addition the CRNVR manned several Motor Fishing Vessels (MFV), Harbour Defence Motor Launch (HDML) and miscellaneous auxiliary vessels. All were manned exclusively by CRNVR personnel. These ships were meant to sweep and guard the approaches the harbors but were often used on extended missions outside Ceylon waters. In the course of these operations, the ships came under enemy fire, recovered essential information from Japanese aircraft that where shot down, sailed to Akyab after the Burma front was opened in two FMVs for harbour duties, and was called upon to accept the surrender of the Italian light cruiser Eritrea and escort her to the Colombo port with a prize crew on board.

Royal Ceylon Navy

Naval Ensign of the Royal Ceylon Navy (1950-1972).

After Independence from British rule in 1948 the government believed a island nation should possess a strong navy to be its first line of defense. Therefore on 9 December 1950 the Royal Ceylon Navy was created with Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve forming the nucleus. The first warship was commissioned HMCyS Vijaya, an Algerian class Minesweeper, ex-HMS Flying Fish along with other patrol boats and tugs. Later the fleet was expanded with, HMCyS Parakram another Algerian class Minesweeper (ex-HMS Pickle), two Canadian built "River" class Frigates HMCyS Mahasena (ex-HMCS Violetta, Orkney and ex-Israeli ship Mivtach), HMCyS Gajabahu (ex-HMCS Hallowell, ex-Israeli Misnak) and Ocean going Tug(ex-HMS Adept). During this time the navy took part in several joint naval exercises and a goodwill mission to the far east. However the expansion of the navy was dramatically halted in 1962 when the captain of the navy who was relieved of command at the time was implicated in an attempted military coup. The navy suffered a great deal as result of the governments retribution that followed, with several of its ships sold off, reduced its size by stoppage of recruitment of officers cadets and sailors for over seven years, the loss of important bases and barracks and the stoppage of training in England. As a result in 1971 the navy was poorly equipped and short of personal when the 1971 JVP Insurrection broke-out. SLN was not capable of putting ships to sea due to a lack of sea going units and the navy being called mount shore duty initially to defended ports and thereafter offensive combat operations against the insurgents. During the insurrection navy suffered its first combat casualties went on to man detonation centers to rehabilitate surrendered insurgents after it was crushed in a few months. Sri Lanka however had to relay on the Indian Navy to established a exclusion zone around the island.

Navy of the Republic

Sri Lankan Navy Ensign.

In 1972 the "Dominion of Ceylon" became the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka" and the Royal Ceylon Navy became the Sri Lanka Navy. The Naval Ensign along with the Flag Officers' flags were redesigned. The term "Captain of the Navy", introduced in the Navy Act, was changed to "Commander of the Navy", in keeping with the terminology adopted by the other two services. Finally, "Her Majesty's Ceylon Ships" (HMCyS) became "Sri Lankan Naval Ships" (SLNS).

Based on its experiences in the late 1970s the navy began rebuilding its strength with the gift of Shershen class torpedo boats from the USSR and acquisition of Shanghai class fast gun boats form China to carry out effective coastal patrolling and carried out several cruises to regional ports. New bases were established to counter smuggling operations in the coastal areas.

Recent years

SLNS Sayura sailing in the background with several arrow class attack boats and Inshore patrol crafts in the foreground.

At the begin of the civil war in the 1980s the navy found itself poorly equipped to face the new threats the LTTE created. But this was soon over come by increasing the fleet of patrol boats and the introduction of fast attack crafts. These proved highly successful in limiting the LTTE’s use of the seas. The weapon systems on these were upgraded with time as the sea tigers resorted to using sophisticated suicide crafts against naval crafts. In addition two locally build Jayasagara class Off Shore Patrol Craft added to the fleet to carry out anti-smuggling operations and coastal surveillance.

During this time the navy took part in its first amphibious operation in its history. The size of the force along with the fleet increased in the years of war. In the early 80’s a land combat force was created witch at first limited itself to base defense and as its numbers increased took part in offensive operations against the LTTE along with the Sri Lankan Army. An elite naval special forces unit called the Special Boat Squadron was created in the late 80’s based on the British Special Boat Service. In early 90's the SLN carried out injunction with the army its first amphibious operation code named Operation Sea Breeze followed by the lager Operation Balavegaya an year later and on the seas it began an aggressive clamp down on LTTE actives including gunrunning. It was during this time in 1992 Admiral W.W.E.Clancy Fernando, the commander of the navy was assassinated by a suicide bomb attack by the LTTE.

During the late part of the 1990s the navy expanded its fleet of patrol boats to counter sea tiger crafts and intercept arms shipments destine for the tigers within Sri Lankan tensorial waters. In 2000 the Navy started a fleet air arm (FAA) by acquiring a HAL Chetak from India to expand its surveillance capability by operating from newly acquired Offshore Patrol Vessels. During the same time conventional warfare capability was increased by the addition of missile boats.

Following the resumptions of hostilities between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE since early 2006, the navy took up an active role in limiting the LTTE's use of the seas. This resulted in several major sea battles curring the course of 2006, 2007 and 2009. Most significant of the events during this time were the interception and sinking of several large cargo ships that were bringing illegal arms shipments to the LTTE in the Indian Ocean in international waters. These naval operations have proven the blue water capability of the Sri Lankan Navy. With the end of the Civil war, the navy has begun reorienting its self for the future defense of the island. This has led to force redeployments, training exercises and transfer of certain duties to the newly formed Sri Lanka Coast Guard.

During the war the navy, along with the army developed its own weapons development programs to produce and maintain weapon systems suited for indigenous requirements in collaboration with Colombo Dockyard.

Major combat operations

Apart from continued deployments at sea the navy has played a significant role in supporting all major operations carried out by the Army including several amphibious operations.


Naval Headquarters

The professional head of the navy is the Commander of the Navy (C of N), at present Vice Admiral D.W.S. Dissanayake and reports directly to the Minister of Defence. The Commander of the Navy exercises operational and administrative control of the Navy from naval headquarters in SLNS Parakrama, Colombo. He is assisted by the Chief of Staff (C of S), who along with Directors General and Directors comprise the Board of Management (BOM) and Board of Directors (BOD) of the Sri Lanka Navy.

Board of Management

The Board of Management consists of the five Directors General, who are of Rear-Admiral grade on appointment;

  • Director General (Operations) - DG (O)
  • Director General (Services) - DG (S)
  • Director General (Engineering) - DG(E)
  • Director General (Electrical & Electronics) - DG(L)
  • Director General (Logistics) - DG (LOG)
  • Director General (Health Services) - DG (HS)


The Naval Areas of Operations. Note that the Southern and Eastern areas overlap (stripes).

The Navy has six commands known as Naval Area Commands, each under the control of a flag officer for effective command and administrative control. This is in order to efficiently maintain all ships, crafts and vehicles; and to ensure the operational readiness of commands and units each area shall have its own harbour/ base, repair and refitting facilities, signal centres, logistic, civil engineering and medical facilities.

Six Naval Area Commands (see image to the right)

  • Northern Naval Area (NNA)
  • North Central Naval Area (NCNA)
  • North Western Naval Area (NWNA)
  • Western Naval Area (WNA)
  • Southern Naval Area (SNA)
  • Eastern Naval Area (ENA)


  • 3rd Fast Gun Boats Squadron (3 FGS)
  • 4th Fast Attack Flotilla (4 FAF)
  • 7th Surveillance Command Squadron
  • Special Boat Squadron
  • Rapid Action Boat Squadron


Sri Lanka Navy consists following branches to which personal are attached to;

  • Executive Branch
    • Navigation and Direction
    • Communications
    • Gunnery
    • Missiles
    • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
    • Diving
    • Hydrography
  • Engineering Branch
  • Medical Branch
  • Logistics Branch
  • Electrical & Electronics Engineering Branch
  • Naval Patrolman Branch
  • Information Technology Branch
  • Musical Branch
  • Legal Branch
  • Provost Branch

Current deployments

As of present, most of the Sri Lankan Navy is deployed for domestic defense with the end of combat operations, while foreign deployments are carried out from time to time.


Due to the Sri Lankan Civil War the navy has been on a constant mobilized (including reservist) state since the 1980s (except for a brief period from 2002–2005). The majority of the naval units both at sea and ground based are deployed in the North and Eastern provinces of the country, as well as in other parts of the country. The security of all major ports of the country is the responsibility of the navy, due to terrorist activity.



General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) formed in 1981 and situated in Ratmalana, fourteen kilometers south of Colombo, is Sri Lanka's only university specializing in defense studies. Apart from postgraduate defense studies each year, approximately fifty cadets from all three services are admitted to the university (aged 18–22) to participate in a three-year program of under graduate studies.[6]

Senior officers of the ranks of Lieutenant Commander and Commander are given advanced training and education at the Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC) at Batalanda, Makola which was established in 1997 as the Army Command and Staff College. In addition KDU conducts Masters Of Science (Defence Studies) degree for the senior officers of Sri Lanka Navy.

Basic officer training is carried out at the Naval & Maritime Academy at the SLN Dockyard in Trincomalee and short/specialized officer training is conducted at the SLNS Gemunu, Welisara. This training includes theoretical aspects covered at the training institute followed by a practical exposure on board the Sri Lanka Navy fleet at sea.

Basic training for new recruits (approximately six months) are conducted at Advanced Naval Training Center, SLNS 'Nipuna'; Naval Artificer Training Institute, SLNS 'Thakshila', Welisara; and at Naval Recruit Training Centres at several shore establishments . This basic training will be followed by on-the-job training on-board fleet units and at shore establishments. Combat Training School at SLNS 'Pandukabaya' conducts combat training for Naval Patrolmen.

Additional training is carried out in UK, India, Pakistan, Australia.

Main training establishments,
  • Naval & Maritime Academy - SLN Dockyard
  • Advanced Naval Training Centre - SLNS Nipuna
  • Naval Artificer Training Institute - SLNS Thakshila
  • Naval Recruit Training Centre - SLNS Shiksha
  • Naval Recruit Training Center/Combat Training School - SLNS Pandukabaya

Current Fleet

The Sri Lankan Naval fleet consists of above fifty combat, support ships and inshore patrol crafts, with most originating from China, India, Israel and Sri Lanka.[7]

Offshore Patrol Vessels

The Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) are the largest warships of the Sri Lanka Navy. There are 5 OPVs in service of the SLN; SLNS Sayura, SLNS Samudura, SLNS Sagara, SLNS Sayurala with all capable of operating naval helicopters and another the locally built SLNS Jayasagara. These ships are deployed in the high seas to carry out surveillance and interception of illegal arms smuggling and to monitor naval activity within the EEZ.[7]

Fast Missile Vessels

The Fast Missile Vessels (FMV) were added to the SLN in 2001 when two Israeli Saar 4 class missile boats were acquired. These vessels which referred to as the Nandimithra class and equipped with Gabriel II anti-ship missiles, they increased the SLN's conventional warfare capability and provide a multi-role platform for different operations undertaken by the navy.[8]

Fast Gun Boats

Fast Gun Boats (FGB) carry out a multi-role missions from coastal patrols to shore bombardment in support of amphibious operations. FGBs consist of ships from the Chinese Lushun class, Haizhui class and Shanghai II class.[9][10]

Fast Attack Craft

Fast Attack Craft (FAC) have proven to be the workhorse of the SLN in combating asymmetric warfare of the Sea Tigers of the LTTE in the coastal waters of Northern and Eastern parts of the island during the civil war. Attached to the 4th Fast Attack Flotilla these boats are about 25 meters in length, around 50 tons displacement, able to reach speeds of 45 knots and armed with rapid fire weapons. They were primarily deployed in offensive operations for the denial of sea, they were also used for defensive operations to prevent Sea Tiger suicide craft from attacking both naval and civilian ships by operating as escorts. There are several classes of FACs such as the locally built Colombo ultra fast class, the Israeli Super Dvora and Shaldag fast patrol boats, the British Chevron and the American Trinity Marine types.[7][11]

Inshore Patrol Craft

Inshore Patrol Craft are small vessels (14 meters long) which are capable of operating inshore as well as for beaching. They are capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots and are used for small boat operations, harbor defense and amphibious operations.[7]

Littoral Attack Craft

Littoral Warfare Craft are small (7-meter long) and highly maneuverable Arrow class attack speedboats. They also have a high degree of firepower for vessels their size. Introduced in 2006, these boats are manufactured by the SLN's own boatyard and used by the elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and the Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) for small boat operations.

Amphibious Warfare Vessels

The SLN has several vessels to support amphibious operations it carries out. These include Yuhai class Tank landing ship SLNS Shathi; 29 M utility landing crafts (Locally built); Yunnan class mechanized landing crafts and an ABS M-10 Utility craft air cushion.[9]

Auxiliary Vessels

The Navy also has several auxiliary vessels such as fast personal carriers and replenishment ships. Fast personnel carriers are catamarans which were used for both troop and civilian transport, running the gauntlet of LTTE suicide craft. SLNs fleet of non-commissioned underway replenishment ships have been used recently for replenishment at sea in international waters.


Fleet Air Arm

With offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in its fleet since 2001, when SLNS Sayura was commissioned, the navy has been considering the development of a fleet air arm to operate from these vessels. Two types of helicopters are being tested for this role:

Special Forces

The navy has its own elite special forces unit, the Special Boat Squadron. Established in the 1980s SBS was modeled after the Special Boat Service of the Royal Navy. It has roles in naval special operations such as amphibious raids, Maritime Counter-Terrorism, Reconnaissance and target indication, combat swimmer missions and small boat operations. As a Special Forces unit, its role is not limited to water-borne operations. It also conducts operations on land, either with ground combat units of the Navy and the Army, or separately.

Naval Patrolmen

A branch formed recently to augment the land combat capabilities of SLN. Effectively members of this branch are soldiers of the navy performing the role of naval infantry. Originally limited to base and harbor security, in recent years Naval Patrolmen have taken part in offensive and defensive operations against the LTTE in conjunction with the army or independently, as both infantry and light armored units.

Provost Branch

The Naval Provost branch of the Sri Lanka Navy is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining discipline and enforcement of law and order among the Naval personnel by way of prevention of crimes, detection of crimes, apprehension of offenders, conducting preliminary investigations for necessary disciplinary action and providing assistance to all naval authorities on all disciplinary and other connected matters.


Parama Weera Vibhushanaya recipients

The Parama Weera Vibhushanaya is the highest award for valour awarded in the Sri Lankan armed forces. Navy recipients include;

  • Lieutenant-Commander Jude Lakmal Wijethunge 

Notable fallen members

Over 23,790 Sri Lankan armed forces personnel were killed since begin of the civil war in 1981 to its end in 2009, this includes 2 admirals killed in active duty or assassinated.[12]. 659 service personnel were killed due to the second JVP insurrection from 1987 to 1990. 53 service personnel were killed and 323 were wounded in the first JVP insurrection from 1971 to 1972[13]. Notable fallen members includes;

Women in the Sri Lanka Navy

Today women are recruited to both the regular and volunteer forces. Although at first limited to the medical branch currently both lady officers and female rates are able to join any branch of service including the executive branch as well. In 2007 the navy appointed its first ever Lady Commodore, Surgeon Commodore Indranee Y. Amarasinghe.[15]

See also


External links and Additional References

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