Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Friday admitted that shooting down its own Mi-17 helicopter in Kashmir on February 27 was a “big mistake” and punitive action is being taken against the guilty.
“It was a big mistake on our part to shoot down our own helicopter on Feb 27. Court of inquiry submitted its report on shooting down of chopper, disciplinary action being taken against two officers,” he said.
In his first press conference after being appointed the Indian Air Force Chief, Bhadauria said Air Force has achieved many important milestones in the last year including Balakot airstrikes. He reiterated that IAF is prepared to meet any contingency and does not rest on past laurels.
Talking about Balakot strikes Bhadauria said that Pakistan lost an F-16 and India a MiG-21 in aerial engagement with the Pakistan Air Force a day after the Balakot strikes.
Bhadauria also said acquisition of Rafale aircraft and S400 air defence systems will greatly enhance IAF’s operational capabilities.
On February 27, a surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force brought down the Mi-17 aircraft in Kashmir’s Budgam, a day after India’s airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan. The helicopter went down around 10 minutes after taking off when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in fierce aerial combat in Nowshera. A missile was fired at the helicopter as the IAF ground staff thought it was an enemy chopper. Six IAF personnel onboard and a civilian on the ground were killed in the crash.
A high-level probe had concluded in August.
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.
Five IAF personnel, including the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Srinagar base, were held responsible for the crash.