Air Marshal Rajapaksa Appuhamilage Udeni Priyadarshana Rajapaksa, a distinguished military officer, was born on 29 January 1969, in Ihalagama, Gampaha District. He received his primary education at Parakrama Vidyalaya, Bandarawatta and Bandaranaike College, Gampaha. Continuing his academic journey, he pursued his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo. Displaying a strong commitment to serving his country, he joined the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy in Ratmalana as an Officer Cadet on 6 October 1988, as part of the 6th Officer Cadets' Intake.
Air Marshal Rajapaksa underwent Basic Combat Training and pursued undergraduate studies as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at the Kotelawala Defence Academy. Afterward, he successfully completed Basic Flying Training at No. 1 Flying Training Wing, Sri Lanka Air Force Base Anuradhapura, where he excelled and was recognized as the Best Flight Cadet in the 33rd Flight Cadets' course. Following this achievement, he progressed to No. 2 Squadron, Sri Lanka Air Force Base Ratmalana, for Advanced Flying Training. On 5 October 1990, he was commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer in the General Duties Pilots Branch.
Air Marshal Rajapaksa's expertise as a pilot extends to a remarkable range of aircraft. He holds the distinction of being a VVIP Captain Pilot and is qualified to fly ten 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 career, he has accumulated over 7000 flying hours, encompassing both combat and transport missions. His exceptional skills are underscored by holding the highest Instrument Rating, the "Master Green Rating," as well as a civil Air Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL). Notably, he demonstrated his resilience and ingenuity during a night ejection from a Pucara aircraft in 1997, while on an operational bombing mission. Additionally, he has been commended for his outstanding handling of a serious emergency situation during a combat mission, earning him recognition from Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. and fortunate to join the esteemed "Ejection Tie Club."
Air Marshal Rajapaksa, in his pursuit of professional development, successfully completed the Junior Command and Staff Course at the Command and Staff Training Institute in Bangladesh. Additionally, he actively participated in the Flight Safety Officers Course in Pakistan and the Advanced Security Cooperation Course in the United States. Displaying his commitment to academic excellence, he obtained a Master of Science in Defence Studies in Management from General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, achieving a "Merit Pass." Moreover, he holds a Master of Science in Military Operational Art from the Air University in Alabama, USA, and a Master of Arts in International Security and Strategy from King's College, London, UK, both 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, specializing in International Security & Strategy.
In recognition of his gallant and selfless contributions during humanitarian operations, Air Marshal Rajapaksa has been awarded the prestigious gallantry medal "Rana Sura Padakkama" on three occasions. Moreover, due to his exemplary and unblemished service, Air Marshal Rajapaksa has been honoured with the "Vishishta Seva Vibhushanaya" and the "Uttama Seva Padakkama" medals.
Throughout his career, Air Marshal Rajapaksa has assumed various significant appointments. He served as the Base Commander at SLAF Base Hingurakgoda from 1 May 2011 to 8 June 2012. 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 21 April 2014. Later, on 1 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 12 September 2016 to 23 August 2017 and again from 7 August 2018 to 30 June 2019.
Air Marshal Rajapaksa's leadership continued to flourish 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 and subsequently took on the role of 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 a Member of the Air Force Board of Management as the Director Air Operations from 14 February 2022 to 26 September 2022 and subsequently, he shouldered the esteemed appointment of Chief of Staff in the Air Force Headquarters from 27 September 2022 to 29 June 2023 before being appointed as the Commander of the Air Force.
Beyond his military achievements, Air Marshal Rajapaksa is an avid sportsman who has represented the Sri Lanka Air Force in Table Tennis, Tennis and Golf. He also held the Chairmanship of Sri Lanka Air Force Athletics. His prowess in golf was particularly noteworthy, earning him the Championship at the Commander's Cup Golf, Eagles' Challenge Trophy, in 2021. Furthermore, his exceptional performances in Golf at the 11th and 12th Defence Services Games in 2021 and 2023, respectively, brought him considerable recognition. In acknowledgment of his sporting achievements, he was awarded SLAF Colours for Tennis and Golf. Air Marshal Rajapaksa is married to Enoka and is the loving father of Miyuni and Inura.
- Career timeline
- 1988 - Enlisted as an Officer Cadet of 06th Intake of Officer Cadets at Kotelawala Defence Academy
- 1990 - Commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer
- 1992 - Operational pilot – No 2 Heavy Transport Squadron
- 1995 - Operational pilot – No 1 Flying Training Wing
- 1998 - Operational pilot – No 8 Light Transport Squadron
- 2002 - Operational pilot – No 2 Heavy Transport Squadron
- 2007 – Directing Staff, Defence Services Command and Staff College
- 2010 – Commanding Officer, No 2 Heavy Transport Squadron
- 2011 - Base Commander, SLAF Base Hingurakgoda
- 2012 – Sri Lankan Defence Attaché, Sri Lankan Embassy in Russian Federation
- 2014 – Senior Air Staff Officer, Directorate of Air Operations
- 2015 – Base Commander, SLAF Base Vavuniya
- 2016 – Air Secretary, Sri Lanka Air Force
- 2019 – Commandant, SLAF Academy China Bay
- 2020 – Base Commander, SLAF Base Katunayake
- 2022 – Director Air Operations, Sri Lanka Air Force
- 2022 – Chief of Staff
- Education / Qualifications / Distinctions -
- Junior Command and Staff Course, Command and Staff Training Institute, Bangladesh
- Flight Safety Officers’ Course, Pakistan
- Graduate – Air Command and Staff College, Air University, Maxwell AFB Alabama, USA
- C-130 Flight Simulator Training Course, Indonesia
- Advanced Security Cooperation Course, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
- Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) Course, London, United Kingdom
- MSc – Management – Merit pass – General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University
- MSc – Military Operational Art – Merit pass - Air University, United States
- MA – International Security & Strategy – Merit pass - King’s College, London, United Kingdom
- Decorations and Awards -
- Rana Sura Padakkama and two Bars
- Vishishta Seva Vibhushanaya
- Uttama Seva Padakkama
- Videsha Seva Padakkama
- Sri Lanka Air Force 50th Anniversary medal
- Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and clasp
- Sevabhimani Padakkama
- Seva Padakkama
- 75th Independence Anniversary Commemoration Medal
- 50th Independence celebration medal
- North Humanitarian medal and clasp
- East Humanitarian medal and clasp
- Purna Bhumi Padakkama
- “Operation Riviresa” Campaign medal