I don’t know about you, but when I think of suicide bombers and warriors for national liberation, I don’t think of navies. But the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka clearly did have naval aspirations before they were finally defeated in 2009. We know because a Canadian citizen named Suresh Sriskandarajah was convicted last year of attempting to procure submarine and warship design software for the Tigers.
But we could have known before. From early days, the Tigers’ land-based guerrillas were supplied mainly by sea. That led, in 1984, to their founding of the Sea Tigers, which eventually operated offensively against the Sri Lankan Navy, leading Jane’s to write that the Sea Tigers “have taken on the Sri Lankan navy with unprecedented success.” They initially used fiberglass boats for suicide attacks and skirmishes with government patrol boats, but eventually graduated to larger merchant vessels for smuggling operations. They even used frogmen to sink a freighter at a Sri Lankan Navy base. Hence, no doubt, their interest in submarine technology.
Foresight Point: Don’t underestimate the risk of diversion to non-governmental actors merely because your technology is presumably too sophisticated for them to exploit.