Naval activity in Ceylon , as this country was known till 1972, re-commenced only under British colonial rule, and in pursuance of the British Empire's global strategy and concerns. During the first of this century's two World Wars, German raiders had infiltrated the Indian Ocean and inflicted heavy losses on allied shipping. Hence, when it was apparent that a resurgent Germany would be a major threat, an Imperial Defence Conference in London, in 1932, promulgated a principle that each part of the Empire, whether Dominion, Colony or Protectorate, irrespective of whether it had been represented at the conference or not, had to assume a responsibility for and make its own contribution towards the defence of its territory and the Empire.
In Ceylon, this decision was given effect to by the "Volunteer Naval Defence Force, Ordinance No. 1 of 1937". In January, 1938 the first Officers were commissioned, two English Master Mariners and two Sri Lankans, the latter being Paymaster Lieutenants E.F.N. Gratiean (later Justice of the Supreme Court) and D. Susantha de Fonseka (later Ambassador to Burma and Japan). The Commanding Officer of the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF), Commander W.G. Beauchamp (a Director of J.M. Robertson & Co. Ltd.) was appointed soon after. An Officer intake of experienced British seamen and of a greater number of Ceylonese followed, and training commenced. They were followed by an intake of 'Signalman Gunners', for operating armaments and communications, 'Seaman (Lascars)' for general seaman duties and 'Stoker Mechanics' for manning the engine room. For training, an Officer Instructor and a retired Warrant Officer were attached: the post of "Officer Instructor", or "01/VNF" persons to date. It was during this period that the traditional Volunteers, week-end training camps commenced.
At 2100 hrs on 31st August 1939, 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", or CRNVR. It continued under RN operational and administrative command till 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 H.M. Ships OVERDALE WYKE (the first ship to be purchased by the Government of Ceylon), OKAPI, SEMLA, SAMBHUR, HOXA, BALTA and H.M Tugs BARNET and C405. In addition it manned several Motor Fishing Vessels (MFV) and miscellaneous auxiliary vessels. All was manned exclusively by CRNVR personnel. These ships were meant to sweep and guard the approaches the harbours but were often used on extended missions outside Ceylon waters. Among these operations were;
Escort Duties: Providing protection for ships bound for Indian ports, Addu Atoll, Male and Diego Garcia and for the QUEEN MARY, QUEEN ELIZABETH, MAURITANIA and AQUITANIA which were now converted as troopships. Guard ship Duties: Staying alongside suspicious neutral ships, both in local ports and in "Port T", the code name for Addu Atoll.
Search and Rescue at sea: Going to the aid of ships torpedoed and sunk between Ceylon and the Maldives. It saved 248 lives and towed several vessels to port.
Patrolling and Lighthouse relief: Servicing the lighthouses around the island and on Minicoy. Patrolling the approaches to Colombo and Trincomalee and manning Boom Defences and controlled mine-fields.
In the course of these operations, the ships came under enemy fire recovered essential information from Japanese Air Craft 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 port with a prize crew on board: the first and only time in recent history that a Ceylonese Navy Ship (or unit in any other service) accepted the surrender of an Enemy Fighting Unit. Far from the sea, the CRNVR operated the important Port War Signal Station (PWSS) at Trincomalee, working in the Coding Office in Colombo, manning Hospitals, facing air-raids, running an Auxiliary Boatyard servicing hundreds of FVs bound for the Burma Front and the Stewarding Service for SEAC Headquarters of Adm. Mountbatten.
With the end of the war, de-mobilization commenced. The CRNVR reverted to Ceylonese control and the wartime CO/CRNVR, Capt. W.G. Beauchamp VRD, CBE, stepped down. There was, however, a need to keep a number of persons under mobilization: from the British point of view, the Admiralty envisaged "the retention of small permanent forces in peacetime" and, from the Ceylonese point of view, the end of colonial status was near and a "Navy-in-waiting" was desirable. So was born the "Nucleus of the Navy", comprising 9 Officers and 91 Sailors, with Cdr. G.R.M. de Mel as CO/CRNVR.
During this period, 1946-1950, many of the Navy's future roles were shaped out of a combination of traditional naval roles and situations that were actually encountered. As its first task, it had to close all books, de-commission ships and establishments and dispose of warships and, immediately after, open new books and commission the Kochchikade barracks as headquarters and barracks of the "Nucleus". Apart from the idea of keeping the CRNVR's skills from deteriorating, by sending groups for training on board RN ships, Aid to Civil Power soon assumed an important role. Security of the Port of Colombo became a naval function, following the threat of strike action. Tugs, Signal Station and Lighters were manned. Later, other installations as the Stanley Poser Station and the Municipal Pumping Station were entrusted to the Navy during strikes. The major flood of 1947 was instance where the Navy took boats inland for flood-relief duties.
Two incidents stood out from the others. One was the sailing of a 75-foot, 55-ton Purse-seine trawler from Sydney to Colombo, via Brisbane, Townsville, Thursday Island, Port Darwin, Dilly (East Timor), Soerabaya, Batavia, Singapore, Penang, Rangoon, Akyab and Madras to Colombo. Sailing 8,000 miles in two months was the CRNVR's longest trip, and its rigours told on the Captain, LCdr. Carl Ohlmus, who died soon after. The other was ceremonial in character: the visit of 17 sailors under Lt. R. Kadiragammar to London in 1946 as part of the Ceylon contingent at the Victory Parade that year.
Independence, in the form of Dominion status within the Commonwealth, finally came on 4th February 1948. In keeping with this new status, the CRNVR took over from the RN all liaisons with visiting naval vessels, lined the streets for the ceremonial opening of Parliament and paraded a Guard of Honour for H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester when he arrived for Independence Day.
The "Nucleus" now started gearing itself up for full naval status. It was expanded both in numbers and quality. More ex-CRNVR personnel previously de-mobilized were recalled. New blood was infused at recruit and technical sailor and Cadet-entry and Direct-entry Officer levels. They were also sent abroad for training awaiting the arrival of a proper naval vessel to be the Navy's flagship. In 1949, H.M.S. FLYING FISH, an Algerian Class Fleet Minesweeper was given to Ceylon on indefinite loan by Britain and was commissioned H.M.Cy.S Vijaya: no other name, said the then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake, was appropriate. The ship was taken over in Singapore by a small core group who understudied the RN crew there and on passage to Trincomalee. Here the Ceylonese crew took over and the rest of the crew joined her for "working up". She then sailed to Colombo under Lt. R. Kadiragammar for the formal transfer. After this, she visited Galle and Hambantota where the ship was 'open to the public'.
With VIJAYA, the Navy could undertake sea operation. Anti-smuggling and anti-illicit immigration patrols commenced in the Palk Bay area, with gunnery practice off the uninhabited Kachchativu Island. One of VIJAYA's roles was to give greater exposure to life and operations at sea, and to "show the flag". She thus sailed in convoy with H.M.S. KENYA, the flagship of the East Indies Fleet, which carried Buddhist Relics to Burma. This was to be the first of the passages to Burma for VIJAYA.
By this time, the legislative framework for a Regular Navy had been drawn. Before it was presented in Parliament, Cdr. G.R.M. de Mel proceeded to U.K. on a year's training and the Naval Advisor to the Government, Capt. W.E. Banks, CBE, DFC, was appointed to act for him. On 9th December 1950, the "Navy Act, Chapter 358 of the Legislative Enchantments of Ceylon" was passed. Capt. Banks was appointed Captain of the Navy and all those who had served since 1937 were deemed members of either the Regular and Volunteer Forces of the "Royal Ceylon Navy".
A role had now to be fashioned for the Navy. Already, it had accepted the role of "Aid to Civil Power" and the security of the Port of Colombo. The arrival of VIJAYA had enabled Anti-smuggling and Anti-illicit Immigration Patrols to be carried out. The task of fashioning a naval policy thus fell on the shoulders of the Captains of the Navy during this period: Capt. W.E. Banks, Capt. J.R.S. Brown, Capt. (later Cmde.) P.M.B. Chavasse all officers on loan from the RN and Capt. (later Rear Adm.) G.R.M. de Mel in 1955.
The Navy had first to find a home. After Naval Headquarters was made available to the R.Cy.N, the Barracks was shifted to Galle Buck to H.M.Cy.S Gemunu I, leaving Kochchikade as GEMUNU II and the VNF's H.M.Cy.S. LANKA. A Wardroom for officers was also acquired at Flagstaff Street. Training assumed importance and a base was established in Diyatalawa, which was later commissioned H.M.Cy.S. RANGALLA.
The operational tasks soon became pressing. A small shore-based camp commissioned H.M.Cy.S. KAL ARU was the first move northwards, but the Navy lacked small craft to patrol off-shore. Till the Patrol Craft on order arrived, KAL ARU was abandoned and H.M.Cy.S. ELARA commissioned at Talaimannar, did patrolling on craft borrowed from the Port Commission and Customs. Soon, however, the craft on order began to arrive, and ELARA was shifted to Karainagar. A Seaward Defence Boat KOTIYA, two Long Patrol Boats HANSAYA and LIHINIYA and four Short Patrol Boats SERUWA, DIYAKAWA, TARAWA and KORAWAKKA gave ELARA the teeth to back VIJAYA up by patrolling the Palk Straits. Powers under the Customs Ordinance were devolved on Naval Officers for this purpose.
VIJAYA began a series of visits overseas as part of her duties as a training vessel. She sailed for the Maldives with Minister Sir John Kotelawela in 1951, again when that country was proclaimed a Republic in 1953 and yet again in 1954 with VNF personnel on training. Similar training cruises were undertaken to Port Blair (Andaman Island), Bombay, Madras and Cochin. In 1955, she took a Tri-Service Buddhist Delegation to Burma for the "Chatta Sangayanaya", carrying a sapling from the Sri Maha Bodhi. Several Buddha Statues were received as gifts, two of which were enshrined in Nagadvipa Temple and at Tissa Viharaya in Trincomalee. She also participated in JET exercises (Joint Exercises, Trincomalee), an annual event from 1950 to 1962.
Ashore, Aid to Civil Power was extended on many occasions. To keep the Port safe, Port Commission Officers were commissioned as a separate division of the VNF, H.M.Cy.S. TISSA, with Capt. M. Chandrasoma, OBE as Commanding Officer. This Division was disbanded in 1956.
Ceremonial duties abounded. With the adoption of a National Flag, a Naval Ensign showing the National Flag, instead of the British flag, was adopted, and first hoisted on Navy Day, 1955. The Navy manned the rope for the "Ransivige" at the funeral of the first Prime Minister. VIJAYA fired a 21 gun salute to the Nation in 1951 on her single 4" gun, without a misfire. In 1953, she was in need of a re-fit and sailed for England with the Coronation Contingent on board. The British papers screamed "THE FLEET'S IN!" as our "one ship Navy" limped into Grimsby and into dry-dock. The RN lent another ship of the same class (VIJAYA II) so that the R.Cy.N. could participate in the Queen's Fleet Review at Portsmouth. She returned in time for Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ceylon and escorted the Royal Yacht GOTHIC into Colombo Port, which became the first ship to secure alongside the Queen Elizabeth Quay. Her Majesty later visited VIJAYA. The next year, Prince Phillip visited Ceylon again, this time on the new Royal Yacht BRITANNIA.
Along with the rest of the Nation, the Navy experienced the new thinking of the era that began in 1956. In terms of foreign and defence policy there was a shift towards nonalignment to power-blocs, going beyond mere neutrality in war to co-existence in world politics. The Defence Agreements, signed at the time of Independence, were considered as contrary to this policy and moves were taken towards a peaceful hand-over of the British-manned Bases, particularly Trincomalee and Katunayake, and some camps in Diyatalawa.
The Navy was called upon to shoulder a big burden and also reap some benefits. Apart from acquiring a fully-equipped new camp in Diyatalawa (ex- H.M.S. UVA), it had to take over the large Base, H.M.S HIGHFLYER in Trincomalee, with the barest of resources. The event was of enormous significance both politically and Navy-wise. The Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike announced this was the removal of a remnant of colonialism and one more step towards full freedom. VIPs and Members of Parliament came to the ceremony in a special, gaily-decorated train. The RN ensign was struck and the R.Cy.N. ensign was hoisted.
The abrogation of the Defence Agreements meant that the Navy had to be expanded and provided with ships to protect our waters. Both were done. The Navy, which had 48 Officers and 510 Sailors, was strong in 1951-1958. Most of them were needed to man the new ships that were being added to the fleet, which yet comprised VIJAYA, KOTIYA and the "Bird" class patrol boats. The first addition was another "Algerian" class Minesweeper, ex-H.M.S. PICKLE which was taken over in England, commissioned as H.M.Cy.S. PARAKRAMA and sailed home in 1958. She was followed by H.M.Cy.S. MAHASENA a Canadian built "River" class Frigate (ex-H.M.C.S. VIOLETTA, ORKNEY and ex-Israeli ship MIVTACH) which was taken over at Djibouti and sailed home in 1959. Prior to this, an Ocean going Tug, ex-H.M.S. ADEPT had been purchased in 1957. Last of all, another "River" class Frigate, H.M.Cy.S. GAJABAHU (ex-H.M.C.S. HALLOWELL, ex-Israeli MISNAK) was delivered at Trincomalee in 1960. The R.Cy.N. was well on the way to becoming a respectable "Blue Water" Navy. JET '60 were larger than ever: 38 ships from 6 Commonwealth navies participated in exercises that spanned in the Bay of Bengal. When the Prime Minister was tragically felled by the assassin's bullet, dramatic experiences awaited the Navy and the Nation. The Nation experienced repeated changes of government and political leadership. A different fate awaited the Navy.
"Blue Water" days would not come again. But the Navy kept its head, showed what it could do under stress, and planned for the future.
The damage caused by Cyclone "Emly" was put right quicker by the Navy than anyone else. Assistance was given to Hospitals, Security Services, off-shore islands, merchant vessels carrying emergency supplies in unfamiliar waters, transport of medical supplies and fuel on GAJABAHU, salvage of government ships run aground and ferrying administrative service officers to flood ravaged areas were some of them. In both routine and emergency situations, the Navy was the force of choice, but this was not enough.
The Navy turned its eyes away from the past to the present and future. Accepting a new role of an unarmed small boat Navy, it built up a flotilla of 28 Patrol Craft for coastal surveillance and maintained their crew members' seamanship skills even under the limits imposed on them. Planning and thinking about the future role were rested with Headquarters and individual minds. Many of the roles the Navy and others, play today can be traced back to those days. The establishment of a Naval & Maritime Academy, a Naval Diving Unit, Hydrographic Unit, an Agricultural & Livestock Project, controlling nationalized ports, providing training to all government maritime institutions these were all accomplished. Other ideas mooted saw the light of day later. Among them were: manning merchant ships, piloting in ports, docking & slipping, building coastal anchorages, maintenance of lighthouses, ship building. All these have come true today; but were born of Naval "Think Tanks". Recruitment of Sailors and intake of Officers re-commenced gradually but soon the flood-gates opened. Larger numbers were recruited and special Training Establishments were set up to cope. What had been lost was never regained, but the future beckoned. The new intakes were more educated and the training was more technical and advanced. All this took place towards the end of the period, but it took a calamity for the government to set matters right again.
The calamity that was required to re-assess the Navy's role and the fleet's configuration came earlier than expected. In 1971, only months after a general election, where the people had spoken, Anti-democratic Forces led by the "Janata Vimukthi Peramuna" (JVP) unleashed a series of attacks on Police Stations in a number of provinces. Intelligence had been lacking or unheeded and the Police, Government and Armed Services were taken completely by surprise.
The element of surprise and the lack of a strategy to meet such an eventuality worked in favour of the insurgents, initially, and a kind of chaos reigned for a while. But the tradition of discipline and ability to respond to the unexpected on the part of the forces, and determined leadership and decision making on the part of government, quickly turned the tide in favour of the government. The insurgents were confronted, defeated and an amnesty extended, in the course of a few months. The country would not be the same again.
The immediate impact on the Navy stemmed from the realization that it was under-manned and under equipped, though eminently capable of responding swiftly and effectively. Lack of personnel had led GAJABAHU being required to lend her crew for the fight on land, rendering her non-existent as a sea-going deterrent. When it became apparent that gun-running and support for the insurgents were coming across the sea, Ceylon had to ask for help from neighboring and friendly nations. Thus we were reduced to asking Indian and Pakistan Navies to patrol our waters. Similar fates befell the Army and Air Force, but nowhere was it more apparent or galling to national pride.
The government was quick to learn from the errors of the past and to plan for the future. Manpower requirements were met and recruitment was taken in hand. Security checking had become necessary as insurgents had infiltrated all three Services and, in the Navy at Chunnakam in Jaffna, a JVP sympathetic sailor opened fire on his comrades, killing two and wounding others. The perpetrators of this crime were swiftly dealt with, but the Navy also incurred its first combat-related casualty in Nochchiyagama during this time.
The changes in the country and the Navy, consequent to all this, was profound. Many countries responded with provision of military hardware and training. All concerned countries stationed Defence Attaches in their Embassies, among whom were India, Pakistan, the UK, the USA, Indonesia, France and the USSR. The Insurgency had changed Ceylon's status in global politics.
In the year 1972 this change of status was echoed the country the decision to renounce Dominion Status within the British Empire (with the Queen's representative as Head of State) in favour of a Republican status (with a President selected by Parliament as Head of State). 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 also shed the St. George's Cross as it had been done in all major ex-colonial navies, and 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" (H.M.Cy.S.) became "Sri Lanka Navy Ships" (SLNS).
The need to add teeth to the Navy at sea was a prime consideration. The first ships to be acquired were gifted by the People's Republic of China. They were the "Shanghai" class Fast Gun Boats (FGB) SLNS SOORAYA and WEERAYA which were taken over in 1972. Much bigger than the Patrol Craft, though not Major Fleet Units, they carried a battery of guns that could be very effective. Three more of the same type were purchased, DAKSHAYA, RANAKAMEE and BALAWATHA in 1973 and JAGATHA and RAKSHAKA in 1980. From the USSR, a very new type of vessel was received as a gift and commissioned SLNS SAMUDRA DEVI. Orders for five general duties Patrol Craft were placed with Cheverton Workboats of the UK and the first two were commissioned SERUWA and KORAWAKKA. Most importantly, Colombo Dockyard emerged as capable shipbuilders and, towards the end of this period, built the 40-metre Off-shore Patrol Craft JAYESAGARA, shortly followed by SAGARAWARDENA.
There was a fleet once again to sail the seas and cruises were again undertaken. GAJABAHU sailed on an operational visit to Madras in 1972, BALAWATHA and GAJABAHU paid a goodwill call on the Maldives in 1973, GAJABAHU, flying the Commander of the Navy's flag sailed to the same destination in 1974 and again, later the same year, in connection with the Prime Minister's visit there. A direct result was the acceptance of two Maldivian Cadets for training in Sir Lanka. There were other cruises, too: GAJABAHU to Cochin (1976), SOORYA and RANAKAMEE to the Maldives (1976), followed by BALAWATHA and WEERAYA (1978) and JAGATHA and RAKSHAKA in 1981.
In another sea-going exercise, a group of officers and sailors under LCdr. M.H. Weliwitigoda, circumnavigated the island under sail in a locally built whaler.
During the Insurgency, the Navy acted alongside the Army in containing terrorism. In spite of the shortage of personnel, it undertook the security of areas that were beyond the scope of the Police to handle. Naval Coordinating Officers were appointed to Polonnaruwa, Ampara and Ratnapura - Cdr. A.H.A. de Silva, Cdr. (E) D.A.G. Fernando and Capt. W. Molegoda, VNR, respectively. New bases were commissioned and new duties commenced, as the plans of the earlier era came to fruition. SLNS VIJAYA was commissioned in Kalpitiya in 1973. A Naval Detachment was established in Laxapana. The Ceylon Shipping Corporation merchant vessel M.V. "Lanka Kanthi" was taken over and manned by a crew of naval officers and sailors as part of the Corporation's fleet: so were the coastal vessels "Mahaweli" and "Maduru Oya". The Imperial Lighthouses Commission wound up their operations in Sri Lanka and the Navy took over the maintenance of the Barberyn, Great Basses and Dondra Lighthouses.
With the insurgents subdued and precautionary measures taken, the Navy was able, with a sense of pride, to resume a ceremonial role. With the retirement of Rear Adm. D.V. Hunter in 1973, a new generation of leaders emerged. Adm. Hunter had joined the Navy in 1938 one of the original "Signalman Gunners" and became the first Sailor in any Navy in the world to rise from the bottom rung to Commander of the Navy. He was the last of the wartime veterans and Command now passed to the first all-new Officers to be commissioned after Independence. The first was Rear Adm. D.B. Goonesekera, a Direct-entry Sub Lieutenant commissioned in 1950. In 1983, command passed to another generation when Rear Adm. A.W.H. Perera (Direct-entry) handed over command to Rear Adm. (later Vice Adm.) A.H.A. de Silva, who had been one of the first Officer Cadet intake, in 1949.
On 9th December 1975, the Navy celebrated its Silver Jubilee. At an impressive ceremony at the Sugathadasa Stadium, H.E. the President William Gopallawa presented his Colours to the Navy.
The new National Carrier, "Air Lanka" was launched and carried the Navy Cultural Troupe to London, Zurich, Paris, Bangkok and Singapore, where they performed with acclaim under the baton of Cdr. D.P. Danwatte, Director of Music. Queen Elizabeth II of Britain visited Sri Lanka by air (with "Britannia" following) in 1981 and the Navy Paraded a Guard of Honour for her.
Under all this euphoria, the prelude to the next internal conflict was surfacing. The murder of the Mayor of Jaffna was the first sign. Throughout the seventies, incidents born of communal tensions occurred and it was expected that a conflagration could take place soon. The Armed Services prepared themselves and, by Presidential Directive an organization was formed within which the Armed Services, Police and Administrative Services could co-ordinate anti-terrorist activities in Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee. Titled "Joint Services Special Operations Command" (JOSSOP), the Navy Commander was appointed Coordinator-in-Chief with J. Bandaragoda, SLAS as Deputy. It was to operate from its Headquarters in Vavuniya.
At the beginning of the civil war in the 1980s the navy increased the fleet of patrol boats by introducing the fast attack craft.
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 craft against naval craft. In addition two locally built 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 which was first limited itself to base defence and as its numbers increased it took part in offensive operations against the LTTE along with the Sri Lanka 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 1990s the SLN carried out injunction with the Army its first amphibious operation code named Operation Sea Breeze followed by the lager Operation Balavegaya a 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 craft and intercept arms shipments destine for the Tigers within Sri Lankan territorial waters. In 2000 the Navy started to expand its surveillance capability by operating from newly acquired Offshore Patrol Vessels. In 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 during 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.