The concept of technology transfer is a common practice in most countries where foreign origin aircraft are inducted and used over a period of time
The Aircraft Overhaul Wing (AOW) at the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Base in Katunayake, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, has already been able to secure a large amount of foreign revenue by repairing Chinese made aircraft in Sri Lanka.
Although the AOW has so far only carried out repairs on Chinese-made aircraft, the SLAF expects to further develop its know-how to repair any kind of aircraft in their fleet.
The Aircraft Overhaul Wing has been responsible for the overhaul of many aircraft including Y-12, PT-6, K-8, F-7 BS and F-7 GS aircraft over the past five years.
The Wing was established at the beginning of 2016 with the technical assistance of the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC). Chinese specialists have assisted and guided the SLAF in establishing this facility. Commanding Officer of the Wing, Group Captain Indika Wickramasinghe said 13 aircraft have been completely repaired so far by the AOW.
Before the establishment of the Aircraft Overhaul Wing, we had to send aircraft that needed to be repaired for foreign countries. The SLAF bore a high cost for this exercise
“We have a specialized training system. We give our technicians advanced training in addition to foreign training opportunities. Each job has a technician and a supervisor, who monitors the repairs being carried out by the technician. We also maintain records of the work done,” he said.
The concept of technology transfer is a common practice in most countries where foreign origin aircraft are inducted and used over a period of time. The practice permits the user-nation to ensure longevity of the platforms that they acquire without having to rely on foreign assistance and having to dispatch aircraft overseas at great expense in terms of both money and time.
While the process of technology transfer requires an initial capital overlay, it is justified by the return on investment over the lifetime of the aircraft fleet.
At the same time, the process and facilities such as this also help to increase the level of competence of the aviation industry of the nation as well and creates opportunities for technicians engaged in such enterprises to obtain gainful employment even after their retirement from military service.
Speaking about the process of repair, Wing Commander Chamila Kahanda Koralage said they were monitoring the manufacture year of planes and when those needed to be repaired calculating its flying hours.
“We keep the repair package on the aircraft which needs to be repaired. Then we carry out a disassemble process with the repair package when the aircraft is brought to the AOW,” he said and added that the time period of a repair depends on the aircraft model. “Usually it takes five months to complete the repairs on a Y-12 aircraft while a Jet aircraft takes much more time than a Y-12.
“Before the establishment of the Aircraft Overhaul Wing, we had to send aircraft that needed repairs to foreign countries with the SLAF having to bear high costs. If we send a Y-12 aircraft, we would have to pay about US$900,000. But after the establishment of the wing, we repair those aircraft in Sri Lanka with our technology. We only have to import parts from overseas,” Wing Commander Rohitha Perera, Commanding officer of the Engineering Service said adding that the SLAF is able to secure a saving of some 50 per cent by repairing aircraft in Sri Lanka.
Air Vice Marshal R A U P Rajapaksa Commander, SLAF Base Katunayake said if those aircraft were repaired overseas, they would have to spend about US$16 million.
“In a short period of time we have been able to save Sri Lanka US$8 million in foreign exchange. We hope to further enhance this wing where non-Chinese aircraft can also be repaired. This is a victory for the Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Government,” he said.