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Why is Sri Lanka buying more military transport helicopters?

Russia’s state-run arms exporter said today Sri Lanka is to purchase 14 military transport helicopters. The money comes from a Russian credit line offered in 2010 for arms purchases.

But spokesmen for Sri Lanka’s defense ministry and air force both told Reuters they were unaware of the deal for the Mi-171s.

See Reuters’ report here.

But the air force spokesman Group Captain Andrew Wijesuriya had an explanation for why the air force, which already has a large fleet of transport helicopters, might be buying more: the military was aiming to expand its foray into civilian tourism.

“We are looking to contribute for civil air transportation industry through the expansion of our Helitours operations,” Wijesuriya said, referring to the military’s post-war repurposing of aircraft for tourism.

Despite the end of the war, Sri Lanka has increased its military expenditure. The defence budget for 2011 is $1.9 billion.