US patrol aircraft visits Sri Lanka’s China built airport
ECONOMYNEXT – An advanced US long-range surveillance aircraft has visited Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport in the south which could soon be given to a Chinese firm to operate, as part of exercises to safeguard international shipping lanes.
A Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft from US Navy’s Red Lancers VP 10 squadron based in Jacksonville Florida.
Poseidon aircraft based on a Boeing 737 platform have advanced surveillance, anti submarine warfare and electronic intelligence capabilities
The aircraft had arrived in Colombo on December 04 and departed from the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota following exercises with Sri Lanka’s Navy and Air Force.
The Mattala Airport was built by China on a semi-commercial loan and Sri Lanka is in talks with China to get a Chinese firm to partner to run it or buy a stake.
Sri Lanka has already struck a deal to sell nearby Hambantota port to China.
The US embassy in Colombo said the exercises with Sri Lanka’s military were aimed at "safe-guarding the international shipping lanes that are vital to global commerce."
“This bilateral partnership with Sri Lanka security forces reinforces the global maritime rules that produces greater prosperity for all of us," U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Robert Hilton said in a statement.
The aircraft is "on a routine Indo-Asia-Pacific to ensure safety and security of vital sea lanes and trade routes, including integrating air and sea patrol operations."
A version of the aircraft P-8I has been sold to the Indian Air Force.
"We are pleased about the opportunity to partner with our friends in the Sri Lankan government and armed forces," Lt. Anthony Beres, the detachment officer in charge was quoted as saying.
"The P-8A Poseidon brings advanced capabilities to maritime safety patrols, search and rescue, counter-narcotics, and humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, and we appreciated engaging with the Sri Lankan Navy during this visit."