Article Compiled by Gp Capt Kumar Kirinde, SLAF (Retd)
THE ONLY AIR FORCE RECEIPIENT OF THE PARAMA WEERA VIBHUSHANAYA (PWV), THE
COUNTRY’S HIGHEST MILITARY AWARD FOR GALLANTRY
Wing Commander Tyron D. S. Silvapulle, PWV, RWP, RWP was a Sri Lankan Air Force pilot. He distinguished himself as a capable helicopter pilot in the Sri Lanka Air Force during the Sri Lankan Civil War. Silvapulle was killed in action in northern Sri Lanka, and posthumously awarded the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya, the country’s highest military award for gallantry. To date, he is the only recipient of the award from the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Tyron Silvapulle joined in the air force as an officer cadet on 18 May 1986 at the age of 19 years. He was member of the 16th pilot intake to the air force, and served as a pilot in both the northern and eastern fronts during the war. Silvapulle flew Bell 212 and Mil Mi-17 transport helicopters as a general duties pilot before being assigned to the No. 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron to pilot the air force’s Mil Mi-24 gunships.
By late 1999, Operation Jayasikurui had stalled and the Tigers were on the offensive with their own Operation Oyatha Alaikal (Unceasing Waves) III. Kilinochchi fell, and Paranthan was under heavy attack. Tiger troops were also moving against Elephant Pass to prevent reinforcements being sent.
On December 17th, Tiger units were moving up by boat against the SL Army lines at Thamilamadam, close to Elephant Pass, and the soldiers called for air support.
The Parama Weera Vibhushanaya (PWV, Decoration of Supreme Heroism) is the highest
decoration awarded by the Sri Lankan military. The medal is awarded to all ranks of the tri
services, to both regular- and volunteer forces, in recognition of: …individual acts of gallantry and conspicuous bravery of a non-military nature of the most
exceptional order performed voluntarily with no regard to his own life and security with the
objective of saving or safeguarding the life or lives of a person or personnel imperiled by
death or for a meritorious act or a series of acts of a humane nature of an exceptional order displayed in saving life from drowning, fire and rescue operations in mines, floods and similar calamities under circumstances of grave bodily injury or great danger to the life of the rescuer…
Based at SLAF Palaly at that time, Squadron Leader Tyron Silvapulle led a pair of Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters of the No 9 Attack Helicopter Squadron on the mission. With him was Flying Officer Chinthaka de Soyza as copilot, the youngest officer in the squadron, and two door gunners.
Arriving over the target area, Silvapulle analyzed the situation. The Sea Tiger boats were heavily armed and known to possibly carry anti-aircraft missiles. It was also the middle of the northeast monsoon, and the weather was bad. Nevertheless, Silvapulle ordered his wingman to remain on station, out of range of the Tiger boats, and he himself dove into the attack. The Mi-24 possessed massive fire power, and Silvapulle and de Soyza unloaded on the Tiger boats in repeated passes, coming in dangerously low to make their fire count. Eventually, the Sea Tigers had enough and began to retreat, heading their boats down the coast. Not content with letting them escape to fight another day, Silvapulle pressed home his attack and his chopper was almost immediately hit by what is suspected to have been an anti-aircraft missile fired from the boats or the nearby shore. The Mi-24 went down in the shallow waters of the Vettilaikerni lagoon, killing its four-man crew.
Silvapulle was posthumously promoted to the rank of Wing Commander and recommended to be awarded the PVW. The citation for PWV commends his actions on 17 December 1999 as follows:
“The brave decision of Wing Commander T. D. S. Silvapulle to attack the enemy knowing the threat posed by surface to air missiles and the risk to his own life is to be thus commended with the awarding of “Parama Weera Vibhushanaya” in his honour”.
The late Wing Commander Tyron Silvapulle is from the 16th intake of the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Note by the compiler: The contents of this tribute were extracted from the write-ups given in the links, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyron_Silvapulle,ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parama_Weera_Vibhushanaya and
https://blacklightarrow.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/parama-weera/ shared by Mr. Ananda Samaraweera, a military
aviation enthusiast –