Thursday, 20 March 2008

A move on Pooneryn? Assault from the sea?

Pooneryn defence complex until November 1993 overlooked the Jaffna/Kilaly lagoon and proved to be the nemesis for Tamil Tigers' free movement/logistics activities. It also proved to be a hindrance for Tamil Tiger radio traffic between Wanni mainland and the Jaffna peninsula which, barring the PALAY/KKS HSZ, was under complete control of the Tamil Tigers. This was the primary reason for Operation Thavalai (frog) to take place to overwhelm this isolated defence complex. The secondary reason was to use the same T-59I 130mm howitzers the SLA used to shell the Tamil Tiger dominated Jaffna peninsula, for their own targets, i.e PALALY/KKS HSZ and any other target that falls within in its range spectrum.

Since the fall of the base the Tamil Tigers have put this sector to good use. The POONERYN sector has been used as a crucial launching pad for its sea tigers during its many assaults on Jaffna islets and during its failed Jaffna offensive of 2006. It is also being used as pointed out above to disrupt air traffic of PALAY base and for possible decapitation strikes against SLA top brass.

Out of these, intermittent shelling disrupting the vital air bridge and possible decapitation strikes against military top rungs are the main concerns springing from this sector for the SLA. There is much debate over over how to neutralise the howitzers in this sector especially among the lay public.

The first option is to use air recon and vector in the Kfir/MIG27 for air interdiction. During the Tamil Tigers' failed 2006 Jaffna offensive, heavy 130mm barrages were directed at the PALAY and KKS bases to cut off the air and naval bridge linking the Jaffna peninsula to the Southern mainland. During this period an AN32B transporter was used as bait to lure the Tamil Tigers to fire the two 130mm howitzers positioned at K-point while Beech B200T SIGINT was on a recon mission loitering above. Soon as the firing began the Beech picked up the heat signature through its FLIR sensors. Two Kfirs were scrambled on the 19th of August 2006 and successfully destroyed the two howitzers. Since this strike the Tamil Tigers have used their remaining howitzers sparingly and intermittently using a network of underground bunkers/tunnels to avoid detection. This is quite a similar tactic employed by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi's Japanese during its siege of Iwo Jima during WWII. It was Iwo Jima that Japanese heavy artillery were concealed in massive chambers reinforced by steel doors built inside Mount Suribachi, to keep off projectiles from American bombardment.

The second option is to occupy the land and push back/capture the howitzers putting PALAY /KKS beyond its 27Km range. With troops currently operating in and around the Mannar rice bowl 54Kms South, the sole option for occupying the land is to insert troops in via the sea or air. With the POONERYN sector's geography being a mirror of the MUHAMALE/NAGARKOVIL/PALLAI sector the same reasons I explained earlier on should SLA make a move on EPS applies here.

The land again is open and barren with little or no cover for any troops that would have landed in attempting to secure the beach head. The open stretch of land further necessitates the need for the armoured cavalry, which again needs to be brought in from mechanized landers. For it to be successful at least 100 such units are necessary and the deployment has to be in real quick time (Bear in mind that landing crafts of SLN can achieve only a max of 20 knots) to drive home the element of surprise and to ensure the beach head remains out of Tamil Tiger mortar range. Also worth to note is that the Tamil Tigers had positioned cadres loyal to its former political head specifically to defend this sector. Which means one should expect significant amount of defence along this coast making the need for armour ever more important since it involves breaking a fortified line.

However, what can be done is to reduce the defence in depth the Tamil Tigers possess in this sector. A small example:

The independent brigade led by late Brigadier (then Colonel) Percy Fernando landing at the Eastern coast of Jaffna to capture the jetty during Riviresa II. This landing took place while 532 brigade was moving from the ground towards Jaffna East and Air Mobile brigade had landed to secure the Jaffna fort. In this instance the Tamil Tigers were deprived the defence in depth for the simple fact that their defences was thinned out and just weren’t able to muster any anti-amphibious defences.

It is very easy to fall into the trap when planning an assault from sea. It is not just a case of getting troops to a coastal belt but also getting the troops to cross the shoreline and enter the hinterland. It is no good performing an assault via sea merely based on maritime supremacy. You need to break out and achieve the overall objective that led to the assault in the first place.

The battle planners must be 100% certain why the landing is being undertaken and what the immediate aims are. They must know what troops will face, not just enemy's strengths and possible reinforcements, but also the terrain of the target area and local factors such as tides, beach conditions and mud flats which might impact on the landings. The importance of such intelligence was magnified during the successful landing of Incheon during the Korean war when "Trudy Jackson" led by Eugene Clark relayed detailed intelligence on enemy defences, sea tide ranges, whether the beach could hold assault vehicles back to General Macarthur. On the other end stands the battle of Dieppe where the lack of intelligence led to the allied armour being stuck on the soft pebbled beach. 


After having sufficient intelligence the landing takes place followed by the lodgement phase to secure the beach head for swift reinforcements and supplies.

Once the intelligence is in place they must consider the approach to the target beach head. The sea crossing could be just a few miles from surrounding islets or all the way from KKS with full naval supremacy in place. Prior to the landing the enemy defence must be softened up and breached. Troops must have the right equipment to proceed from sea to land while under fire. Subsequent to the landing lodgement phase begins to secure the beach head against counter attack and to ensure vital reinforcements and supplies start flowing swiftly and smoothly. Finally the troops must break out from the beach head and begin the next stage of the overall battleplan. It is critical to remember that assault from sea is rarely a battleplan just in itself. It is intended to be part of a larger military campaign.


Soon after lodgement troops need to break out to move to the next stage of the battleplan to avoid being pinned down.

To conclude, the failed operation Thrivida Pahara to relieve a besieged MULATIVU base in July 1996 can be brought up to show the importance of achieving the aforementioned objectives during a coastal assault battleplan. A coastal assault was the only way to reinforce the besieged base since it lies in close proximity to the shoreline. Special forces were airlifted from Trincomalee under the leadership of Lt. Col Fazly Laphir to secure a suitable beach head for troops that were just dispatched from KKS. These troops were also carrying vital supplies and were 20 miles away from the target shoreline. Due to heavy guerilla resistance the Special forces team were forced to make a landing 5Km South of MULATIVU at ALAMPIL. From there the team had to track North amidst heavy resistance. The all important naval supremacy for the reinforcing troops failed to exist due to Tamil Tiger sea wing and its homicide wing. One of the homicide boats managed to ram itself against the Shanghai class FGB SLNS Ranaviru killing 36 sailors on board. Due to heavy resistance the naval task force managed their landing only 3 days later and reached the base 7 days later since the raid, which by then the time frame to achieve the overall objective - relieving the siege on MULATIVU with vital supplies - had long gone.

Like General Macarthur General Holland Smith, and Lt. Gen Kobbekaduwa (Operation Balavegaya), get the tricky coastal assault right and you secure a stepping stone to ultimate victory. Get it wrong and you achieve massive loss of life, political and military disaster.

This is by no means to say the Pooneryn sector is not earmarked. The A32 is a very good prospect and is ideal as a MSR from ILLUPAIKADUWAI, POONERYN to Jaffna across the Sangupiddy ferry till the A9 is liberated from OMANTHAI to MUHAMALE. Unlike the A9 the A32 route needs to be defended from only one flank (East), which is a major advantage.

Only time will tell...


bodhi_dhana said...

The sinhala name for Pooneryn is

bodhi_dhana said...

Further to my previous incomplete comment.
First, thanks to long ranger for these valuable analyses. second I meant to add the following:
Palay, Pallai is PAALLA පාල්ල
Alampil is VAELLAMPILA, වැල්ලම්පිල

All these names are from the website mentioned previously. That website says that ILLUPAIKADUWAI = MEEPATHOTA gives the name in the Mahavamsa as the port used by the Maagha to invade Sri Lanka.

Long-Ranger said...



In future I will include the Sinhala names as I did with Attampana. Similarly I believe CHUNNAKAM in Jaffna is the ancient HUNUGAMA and KUDUMBIMALAI aka Thoppigala is KUDADIMBULAGALA.

Am I correct?

bodhi_dhana said...

Hi Long ranger, you are right
about Chunnakam etc. There are more than
a thousand place names in the website,
and the write up about Thoppigala aka Kudumbigala ...KUDADIMBULAGALA. is quite long and worth reading.
According to the website, Muramaale (Muhamale) was, even in ancient times,
a foward defence line (hence the "mura").

Pina said...

Long-Ranger and Long-Ranger,

Excellent! mates,

All must be encouraged to use the original names of the palces in NE

Pina said...


In my previous post it should have been Long-Ranger and bodhi_dhana

jiffy said...

keep the good work up comrades.

LKDOOD said...


great article & graphics :)

keep up the good work !

Sri Lanka In Focus-NEWS BLOG

sldf said...

Long Ranger,

Another excellent article. Keep it coming :)

Any thoughts on the STF move? None of us here know if this is the right move. Like to know your thoughts on this latest move.

CASC said...

Long Ranger,

Thank you for this excellent article. The article identifies some of the contraints the planners would encounter in making an amphibious landing.

In your opinion, given the size and resource constraints of the SLN, does the SLN have the capability to do such an operation at this time (e.g., the landing craft needed for men and vehicles, vessels needed for covering fire). I don't need the specifics just a general answer would be ok.
Also, I assume that the troops would need to get specialized training in amphibious landing before such an endevour is attempted.

Best regards

Skywalker said...

Dear Long Ranger,

Again thanks for an interresting article.

Welcome your analysis on past SLA operations as well as possible future moves like this, pls keep it up bro!!

nemesis said...

Excellent work longranger!

And good comparison with Iwo Jima! Thanks for clearing some long standing questions.

Would it be wise to dispatch beach recon parties and recon patrols from the SBS into the
Poonery area to spot for and act as FAC for SLAF bombers in a possible future Tiger Arty barrage? As you said bait by the SLAF would probably not be swallowed by the tigers twice. Concealment would be a problem for a large formation..but what about a small 4/8 man patrol?


Thanks for the names mate

RomeoAlphaFoxtrot said...

Hi Long Ranger,

Another good article mate - thanks for the great insight.

After the recent sinking of a SLN FAC by a possible sea mine, you think the sea area in pooneryn would have sea mines as well - to prevent a sea landing ?

nemesis said...

long ranger,

From Asian tribune article on the Mech.

"Brigade Commander Colonel Ralf Nugera said with confidence “our Brigade will reach Elephant pass and beyond as we have shock and surprises in store for the LTTE"


Wise idea?? haven’t we lost part of the element of surprises by pointing out EPS as a target??

Or may be our lads are doing some counter int. to make the tigers harden and beef up EPS and then when the push comes.. bypass EPS in two flanking spears and encircle a big tiger formation??

Your views please.

Btw. Wasn’t Mech. Something Maj.Gen. Kobbakaduwa thought of??

Ogre said...

lone ranger:

Current goal is attrition through LTTE is deprived the ability to field enough manpower to sustain a conventional defense.

but what happened to better ideas?

why cant we side step air lift out flank enemy and avoid the blood murder traps they set for us?

eg..dropping thousand troops behind enemy lines
Isreal did this in the 60's and 70's when they were out gunned and out manned by the arab forces with superior equipment.

attrition is good, but capturing thousand LTTE troops is much better!

Nandimithra said...

Long Ranger,
Nice to hear from you.
Excellent article.
I agree with bodhi dhana and you regarding usage of our old sinhala names.
Let me discuss about Tamil names in north and east. Tamils who occupied all the big posts in the Survey department had the liberty to change all sinhala names into tamil names. British masters allowed them a free hand during early nineties when they surveyed the whole of Ceylon.

Let me show you few examples;

Puliyan-kulam --Puli means in tamil Tamarind, Kulam means lake
Old sinhala name was SIYABALAWEVA

Mullative --Moola means in tamil Roots, Tivu means Island
Old sinhala name was MOOLADOOVA

Nagarkovil --Old sinhala name was NAGAKOVILA

Nintav ur --Old sinhala name was NINDAPURA ur means village,gama
Mutt-ur -- Pearl village‘ MUTU GAMA

Naina-tivu -- NAGADEEPA

Muhamalai --Malai means mountain or hill -MAHAKANDA
Kudiramala--Sinhala name is -- KIHIRIKANDA

Valikamam Kamam means town, village -WELIGAMA
Kodigamam --GODOGAMUWA
Chunnagam --Chunna means lime -HUNUGAMA
Mallakam --Flower village -MALGAMA
Kondavil -- KONDAVILA
Kokkuvil -- sinhala meaning crane pond -KOKKAVILA
UDUVIL -- sinhala meaning Upper pond -UDUVILA

We should preserve our ancient historical names which were changed by tamil politicians who advocated the idea of tamil home land concept and seperating this Island in early nineties

Long-Ranger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Long-Ranger said...

To all, You are welcome. :-)


Unfortunately the media is making a mountain out of a molehill. The number of STF camps that will be supplanted by SLA constitutes less than 25% of the total number of camps in the area. Just like heavy artillery/MBRLs/ammo dumps that were strategically positioned in the area being moved to the North, it is a requirement to reinforce the Northern theatre with battle hardened officers and men such as the STF.

I believe MOD has published a well detailed brief on this issue.


You are asking very dicey questions here :-)


I will bring up the same example of Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was an isolated island and was quite small. This factor alone proved recon missions difficult. During the initial landings the armour had a hard time moving off the shore due to soft ash and sand found on the beach. Bear in mind Mount Suribachi was a volcanic one.
However, in SL's case the geographics of Pooneryn are pretty much similar to the Muhamale sector. There is a reason why the 8 man special jungle warfare conducted successfully in the East and Southern Wanni are not applied to the Northern Wanni. The same applies to recce teams.

I will not comment on what a distinguished SLA officer has said to the media. However, the shock and surprises he mentions will indeed be an American version of operation shock and awe on a smaller scale. All I can say is when all the might of SLA were lined up South of PANICHCHANKERNI bridge, the main thrust occurred where the Tamil Tigers least expected. Time permitting I will post something on the famed flanking manoeuvre. :-)


Assault from air or in military parlance vertical envelopment, although different to an assault from sea is quite similar in certain principles. Before such an air assault to be conducted you need to ensure at this time:

1.Does your service chiefs have sufficiently trained paratroopers?

2, Does you service chiefs have the luxury of logistical aircraft to insert a large number of troops in a short space of time to ram home the element of surprise?

3. Once the troop insertion has taken place does youe service chiefs have the luxury of sufficient logistical aircraft dedicated to resupply the grounded troops? Bear in mind that airdropped paratroopers are limited logistically in what they carry.

The Israeli operation Steamroller you mentioned had all of the above. Interestingly the Israelis never undertook an airborne operation despite its success, simply because if there are other avenues in achieving your given objective, it is tactically unsound to undertake the high risks associated with an airborne assault. Eg: British General Montgomerie's failed Operation Market Garden.

Hope this helps :-)

Ogre said...


thank you for your comments

we should know this fight is for the long run and get ready.

locally built equipment is now much more visible, but we need more.

yes i know what you mean regarding air drop - even with chopper like raid....remember how our air mobile brigade was annihilated after they captured mulativu back in late 1990s? Ratwatte came and raised the flag, LTTE hit back, bodies were sent in 2 lorry loads i think total of 700 + bodies.

Long-Ranger said...


What do you think?

It was not very long ago when SBS divers managed to diffuse Sea Tiger 'bulb bombs' that were moored along the coast of MULATIVU/NAYARU to create a safe passage for the sea tigers to extract the stranded cadres in the PERARU/KUMBURUPIDDI jungles since it acted as a deterrent against FACs which were on the look out for any sea tiger movement along this coast.

Area denial or 'channelising' weapons are one of the primary forms of defence of a coast. This is where General Macarthur was lucky. Had he been late a day or two the North Koreans may have had time to deploy its Russian Sea mines along the Incheon coast. Luckily for General Macarthur the mines lay at a storage facility at a rail depot awaiting transportation.

The whole purpose of my exercise with this portal is to give the reader a brief idea on how to think in a military point of view - limitations, strategic importance, balance of power and other factors that governs the decision making process within a military machine.

Constantin Demiris said...

Long Ranger,

Great blog. Very well supplemented with maps and graphics.

Also may I commend you and Bodhi_dhana for trying to enlighten us of the ancient sinhala names of the area. This is a good initiative.

Something I also noted was

describes the areas hit by todays air strikes. The news report describes of PALLEPADU, south of YAKTHUDUWA.

Any idea where Yakthuduwa is?

And again congratulations for initiating it at (assuming you are involved with, if not I appologise.

Sivarassaiah said...

You gullibles,

the fishermen saga turns out that your army shot the fleeing fishermen haha.

here read

tsk tsk what was gloating about? haha same with everyother security reports.

Your all defence blogs paying lip service to government web sites.

Sivarassaiah said...

And keep sinhalising the places. Thats the least you could do while 'trying' for over a year to capture the same places over and over again. As long as Tamils are the majority the place names will remain Tamil.

Long-Ranger said...

Constantin Demiris,

To be honest I have no idea. Perhaps Bodhi_dhana can help. My guess is POONERYN where the said air strike took place. I may be wrong.

mazeB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tamils said...

Bodhi_dhana another name for Sinhala is Maramandai.