updated 2/22/2009 6:14:45 AM ET 2009-02-22T11:14:45

Sri Lanka's government said on Sunday a kamikaze attack by Tamil Tiger rebels a two days ago could have destroyed the country's air force, but a disaster was averted because the two explosive-packed rebel planes were shot down before they could reach their targets.

Authorities said four people, including the two rebel pilots, were killed in Friday night's attack.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Sunday that if the attacks had been successful, "there wouldn't have been an air force."

Air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said one of the planes carried about 264 pounds of explosives but the pilot could not detonate it because he had lost a hand to anti-aircraft fire.

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