Air Chief Marshal Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said on Friday that the shooting down of an MI-17 helicopter in Jammu and Kashmir in February was a “big mistake”, and the Indian Air Force (IAF) was taking disciplinary action against two officers responsible for the action. Seven persons — all six IAF personnel on board the chopper and a civilian on the ground — were killed in the incident.
“It has been established that the helicopter was hit by our own missile. We have already taken administrative action. Disciplinary action is being taken against two officers. We admit that it was a big mistake and necessary steps have been taken so that such an incident does not recur,” said Bhadauria, who took charge as IAF Chief on Monday.
Bhadauria was addressing a press conference in New Delhi, ahead of the October 8 Air Force Day celebrations.
The MI-17 helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Budgam on February 27, when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in an aerial combat in Nowshera, a day IAF’s new chief admits ‘big mistake’: Chopper hit by our own missile in Feb after India’s airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan. The helicopter was incorrectly identified as an enemy chopper.
The IAF headquarters had ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident, under an Air Commodore-ranked officer. Administrative action has already been taken against four officers held responsible by the CoI. Separately, disciplinary action like court-martial proceedings are being initiated against two senior officers, IAF sources said.
The IAF probe is reported to have found violations of standard operating procedures. There were gaps in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper — the vital ‘Identification of Friend or Foe’ (IFF) system on-board the helicopter had been switched off. The IFF helps air defence radars identify whether an aircraft or helicopter is friendly or hostile.