Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana took over command of the Sri Lanka Air Force today.
He was appointed as the 18th Commander of the Air Force by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday (30).
Pathirana, born on 30th December 1965 is a product of Dharmaraja College Kandy. He joined the Sri Lanka Air Force on the 2nd of July 1985, where he completed his Basic Ground Training at SLAF Diyatalawa securing the award for the Best Cadet of the 14th Officer Cadets Intake. He was one of the three pilots who were selected for advance flying training in Pakistan Air Force and secured the award for the Best Allied Flight Cadet by the Pakistan Air Force. He received his commission on the 2nd of January 1987 to the rank of Pilot Officer, in the General Duties Pilot Branch.
His operational career commenced as a reconnaissance pilot at the No 3 Maritime Squadron in 1987 and in 1989 he was posted to the No 2 Transport Squadron flying the Y 12 Aircraft. In 1990 he was selected to be amongst the first six SLAF pilots to convert to supersonic F7BS fighter aircraft at the No 5 Jet Squadron and in 1995 he was selected to fly the more advanced Kfir fighter aircraft at No 10 Jet Squadron. He commanded all three fighter squadrons and continued be the Commanding Officer of No 10 Kfir Jet Squadron until 2007.
Air Vice Marshal Pathirana was selected to undergo the All-Purpose Qualified Flying Instructors Course in India in 1995 and became the first Sri Lankan Pilot to successfully complete the course. He is a qualified Fighter Pilot, Flying Instructor and an active operational flyer who has flown over 3500 flying hours over 15 types of aircraft and also held the positions of “Command Instrument Rating Examiner” and “Command Flight Safety Officer” of the Sri Lanka Air Force. In addition to his military flying career he holds a Commercial Pilots License and is a Flying Examiner for the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka.
In the year 2002, he earned the distinction of attending the esteemed Air Command and Staff Collage, Air University US Air Force, Alabama, USA, where he became the first Sri Lankan Air Force Officer to obtain the prestigious Masters in Operational Art and Science awarded by the Air University, Alabama, USA.
In the year 2004 he successfully read for his 2nd Master’s Degree (Defence Studies) in Management awarded by the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. Once again he proved his excellence where he rose to become the first in the order of merit. He served as the first Defence Attaché at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation from 2007 to 2009. During his tenure in Russia he completed a Diploma in Air Field Management awarded by the University of Ukraine. Following this, he served at the Ministry of Defence as the Deputy Military Liaison Officer from 2009 to 2011.
In January 2011 he attended the National Defence College, New Delhi, India which earned him the distinguished title “ndc” and was awarded a Master in Philosophy from the University of Chennai in 2012 and currently is reading for his Doctorate with the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. He is also an an alumni of Asia Pacific Strategic Studies in Hawai, USA. In December 2011 he was appointed as the Commandant of the Sri Lanka Air Force Academy China Bay. Following this appointment, he was appointed as the Base Commander at Katunayake and Ratmalana Air Force bases. Air Vice Marshal Pathirana was appointed as the Director Air Operations in 2017 in which capacity he served until being appointed as the Chief of Staff.
He has participated in almost all the major counter terrorist operations conducted in Sri Lanka and his bravery has been acknowledged through the award of gallantry awards on six occasions. He is one of the few pilots who have been awarded with prestigious Green Endorsement in his flying log book by both Pakistani and Sri Lankan Air Forces. Apart from his professional flying career, he has contributed to the upliftment of sports in the SLAF as the Chairman of Athletics and is the current Chairman of Golf for SLAF. (Colombo Gazette)