Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa appointed as the 19th Commander of the Air Force of Sri Lanka

Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa appointed as the 19th Commander of the Air Force of Sri Lanka

The Ananda College Old Boys’ Association proudly congratulates Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa on his momentous appointment as the 19th Commander of the Air Force of Sri Lanka. We take immense pride in celebrating this remarkable achievement as he becomes the first Anandian to hold such a prestigious position. Our association wishes him the best as he embarks on this new chapter of his illustrious career.

Air Marshal Rajapaksa Appuhamilage Udeni Priyadarshana Rajapaksa, a distinguished military officer, was born on 29th January 1969 in Ihalagama, Gampaha District. His educational journey began at Parakrama Vidyalaya, Bandarawatta, and later at Bandaranaike College, Gampaha, where he received his primary education. Continuing his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo, Air Marshal Rajapaksa demonstrated a resolute commitment to serving his beloved nation. His journey towards military excellence commenced on 6th October 1988 when he joined the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy in Ratmalana as an Officer Cadet, as part of the 6th Officer Cadets’ Intake.

While at the Kotelawala Defence Academy, Air Marshal Rajapaksa underwent Basic Combat Training and pursued his undergraduate studies, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. His passion for aviation soared as he excelled in Basic Flying Training at No. 1 Flying Training Wing, Sri Lanka Air Force Base Anuradhapura, where he emerged as the Best Flight Cadet in the 33rd Flight Cadets’ course. This outstanding achievement propelled him to the No. 2 Squadron, Sri Lanka Air Force Base Ratmalana, for Advanced Flying Training. On 5th October 1990, he was commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer in the General Duties Pilots Branch, marking a significant milestone in his military journey.

Air Marshal Rajapaksa’s exemplary piloting skills span a diverse array of aircraft. As a VVIP Captain Pilot, he has demonstrated his proficiency in flying ten different types of aircraft, including the CESSNA-150, HARBIN Y-12, HS-748, SF-260TP, IA-58 PUCARA, B-200T, AN-32, and C-130. Throughout his illustrious career, he has accumulated over 7000 flying hours, encompassing combat and transport missions. His exceptional capabilities are further highlighted by holding the highest Instrument Rating, the esteemed “Master Green Rating,” and a civil Air Transport Pilot’s License (ATPL). His resilience and resourcefulness were showcased during a night ejection from a Pucara aircraft in 1997 while on an operational bombing mission. Additionally, he has been commended for his exceptional handling of a serious emergency during a combat mission, earning him recognition from Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. and the privilege of joining the esteemed “Ejection Tie Club.”

Air Marshal Rajapaksa’s unwavering dedication to professional development led him to complete the Junior Command and Staff Course at Bangladesh’s Command and Staff Training Institute. Additionally, he actively participated in the Flight Safety Officers Course in Pakistan and the Advanced Security Cooperation Course in the United States. His pursuit of academic excellence resulted in the attainment of a Master of Science degree in Defence Studies in Management from General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, where he achieved a “Merit Pass.” Moreover, he holds a Master of Science degree in Military Operational Art from the Air University in Alabama, USA, and a Master of Arts degree in International Security and Strategy from King’s College, London, UK, with a “Merit Pass” distinction. Furthermore, he is a distinguished alumnus of the Air Command and Staff College, Air University, Alabama, USA, where he was awarded the “pass staff college (psc)” distinction. He also attended the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in the United Kingdom, specialising in International Security & Strategy.

In recognition of his gallantry and selfless contributions during humanitarian operations, Air Marshal Rajapaksa has been honoured with the prestigious gallantry medal “Rana Sura Padakkama” on three occasions. Furthermore, his exemplary and untarnished service has earned him the “Vishishta Seva Vibhushanaya” and the “Uttama Seva Padakkama” medals, symbolising the profound respect and admiration bestowed upon him.

Throughout his illustrious career, Air Marshal Rajapaksa has assumed various significant appointments. From 1st May 2011 to 8th June 2012, he served as the Base Commander at SLAF Base Hingurakgoda. Subsequently, he undertook the crucial role of Sri Lankan Defence Attaché to the Sri Lanka Embassy in the Russian Federation from 2012 to 2014. Following his tenure in Russia, he was appointed as the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) on 21st April 2014. Later, on 1st September 2015, he assumed the role of Base Commander at Sri Lanka Air Force Base Vavuniya. Additionally, he served as Air Secretary to the 16th Commander of the Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Kapila Jayampathi, from 12th September 2016 to 23rd August 2017 and again from 7th August 2018 to 30th June 2019.

Air Marshal Rajapaksa’s leadership flourished as he assumed command of various Air Bases. Notably, in 2020, he held the appointment of Commandant at the Sri Lanka Air Force Academy in China Bay, followed by his role as the Eastern Air Commander. Later, he assumed responsibilities as the Base Commander of Sri Lanka Air Force Base Katunayake, Southern Air Commander, and Overall Operations Commander (Air Defence) during his tenure at Sri Lanka Air Force Base Katunayake. Progressing further, he became an Air Force Board of Management member as the Director of Air Operations from 14th February 2022 to 26th September 2022. Subsequently, he shouldered the esteemed appointment of Chief of Staff in the Air Force Headquarters from 27th September 2022 to 29th June 2023 before being appointed as the Commander of the Air Force.

Beyond his exceptional military achievements, Air Marshal Rajapaksa is an ardent sportsman who has proudly represented the Sri Lanka Air Force in Table Tennis, Tennis, and Golf. He has also held the esteemed Chairmanship of Sri Lanka Air Force Athletics. Notably, his golfing prowess has garnered considerable acclaim, leading him to clinch the Championship at the Commander’s Cup Golf, Eagles’ Challenge Trophy, in 2021. Furthermore, his outstanding performances in Golf at the 11th and 12th Defence Services Games in 2021 and 2023, respectively, have earned him well-deserved recognition. Acknowledging his sporting achievements, he has been awarded SLAF Colours for Tennis and Golf. Air Marshal Rajapaksa is happily married to Enoka and is the proud father of Miyuni and Inura.