IAF chopper in Budgam hit by Indian missile: Report

Kashmir Times. Dated: 8/24/2019 12:14:38 AM

NEW DELHI, Aug 23 (Agencies): 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, according to a high-level probe that found at least five officers guilty.
Six military personnel and a civilian were killed in the incident.
At least five 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 said on Friday.
There is no immediate comment from the Indian Air Force on the findings of the probe.
An Indian Air Force inquiry has found five officers guilty for the crash of a helicopter in friendly fire over Srinagar in February 27 when India and Pakistan were engaged in a short aerial battle.
The helicopter was shot down by an Indian missile when Indian air defences were on high alert following the February 26 Balakot airstrike that targetted a terrorist camp in Pakistan. The helicopter crashed near Budgam, killing all six Indian Air Force personnel on board.
"Five officers have been found blameworthy by the court of inquiry and the report has been sent to the Air Headquarters for further action," government sources said.
The officers found guilty of negligence and not following procedures include one Group Captain, two Wing Commanders and two Flight Lieutenants, sources said. Air Marshal Hari Kumar was the Western Air Command chief at the time of the incident.
The helicopter was shot down around the same time when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets got into a rare aerial battle over Jammu and Kashmir. The aerial battle was a result of Pakistani jets launching a counter-attack in response to the Balakot air strikes.
Indian air defences were on their highest state of alert as a result of the Pakistani air intrusion. It was right then that the Mi-17 V-5 chopper of the 154 Helicopter Unit took off. It crashed within 10 minutes after taking off after being hit by an Indian air defence missile.
A six-month-long Court of Inquiry into the incident found that the Mi-17 V-5 helicopter was hit by a ground-based missile of the Indian Air Force when the chopper was on its way back to Srinagar air base, they said.
Six IAF personnel on board and a civilian on the ground were killed in the crash. Five IAF personnel, including the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Srinagar base, were held responsible for the crash and all of them are likely to face severe punishment, sources said. “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 for those held responsible for the incident. The IAF will initiate strong action against the guilty based on the report of the CoI.
This could include charging the guilty with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the sources said.
The probe found that the 'Identification of Friend or Foe' (IFF) system on-board the helicopter was switched off and there were "vital gaps" in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper. It also found violations of standard operating procedures. The IFF helps air defence radars identify whether an aircraft or helicopter is friendly or hostile. The helicopter crashed in Budgam around 10 AM on February 27 when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in fierce aerial combat in Nowshera, a day after India's air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan.
The helicopter went down around 10 minutes after taking off. Official sources said the helicopter was asked to return because of the dogfight 100 km away from Srinagar.
A missile was fired at the helicopter as the IAF ground staff thought it was an enemy chopper. The IAF headquarters had ordered a CoI into the incident under an Air Commodore-ranked officer. In early May, the IAF transferred the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Srinagar base to ensure a thorough probe into the incident. Sources said the CoI was also specifically focusing on examining the role of various people, including those controlling the air defence system when the helicopter was hit by the surface-to-air missile.



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