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Shooting down our own chopper a ‘big mistake’: IAF chief on Budgam Mi-17 crash

The IAF headquarters has ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident under an Air Commodore-ranked officer and at least four officers have been found guilty

SNS | New Delhi |

Indian Air Force Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Friday admitted the shooting down of an Mi-17 V5 helicopter in Jammu and Kashmir in February as a “big mistake” and added that such mistakes will “not be repeated” in the future.

Speaking to media after the annual Air Force Day press conference, the IAF chief said that a Court of Inquiry has been completed and admitted, “It was our mistake as our missile had hit our own chopper”.

He further said that the Indian Air Force will take action against two concerned officers in connection with the incident.

The Mi-17 IAF helicopter that crashed in Budgam in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, the day Indian and Pakistani air forces were engaged in a fierce dogfight, was hit by an Indian missile.

A high-level probe into the incident has found at least four officers guilty.

Six military personnel and a civilian were killed in the incident.

At least four officers, including a group captain, were held responsible for the crash of the chopper in the friendly fire and are set to face severe punishment, military sources were quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

The IAF headquarters had ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident under an Air Commodore-ranked officer.

The probe found that the ‘Identification of Friend or Foe’ (IFF) system on-board the helicopter was switched off and there was a “vital gap” in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper.

The IFF helps air defence radars identify whether an aircraft or helicopter is friendly or hostile.

“The guilty personnel will face severe punishment as per provisions of the military law,” said a source, adding that the IAF top brass will decide on the quantum of punishment to those held responsible for the incident.

In early May, the IAF transferred the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Srinagar base to ensure a thorough probe into the incident.

The helicopter crashed in Budgam on February 27 when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in aerial combat, a day after India’s airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Air Force had unsuccessfully attempted to target various Indian military installations in Kashmir on February 27.

The CoI is also specifically focusing on examining the role of various people, including those controlling the air defence system when the helicopter was hit by a surface-to-air missile.

The IAF will initiate action based on the report of the CoI. This could include charging the guilty with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

(With PTI inputs)