Downing chopper a big mistake, 6 to face action: IAF chief

NEW DELHI: Six officers are set to face action for grave operational, supervisory and other lapses that led to “friendly fire” downing the Mi-17 V5 helicopter at Budgam on February 27, around the same time Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in the aerial skirmish in the Nowshera sector along the Line of Control about 100 km away.
Seven people were killed in the incident.
“The Court of Inquiry (CoI) was completed last week. It was our fault. It was our missile that hit the Mi-17. It was a big mistake. Two officers will face disciplinary action (court-martial). Necessary steps are being taken to ensure such thing do not reoccur in the future,” said IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Friday.
Sources said one of the two officers to face a court-martial will be the then chief operations officer (COO) of the Srinagar airbase, a Group Captain (equivalent to a Colonel in Army) who was also the terminal weapons director in charge of air defence (AD) at that time.
It was on his order that the Israeli SpyDer quick-reaction anti-aircraft missile was fired by the AD unit of the Srinagar airbase to bring down the ill-fated Mi-17, which had its IFF (Identity, Friend or Foe) transponder system switched off, within 12 seconds from the launch around 10.10 am, as was reported by TOI earlier.
Six IAF personnel and a civilian were killed in what in military terms is called a “blue on blue” incident during the “fog of war”. With retaliation by Pakistani jets under way, a day after IAF conducted the pre-dawn strikes on the JeM training camp at Balakot on February 26, the entire air defence network had gone on a hair-trigger alert to shoot down “any unauthorised aircraft” in the region.
The other officer to be court-martialed will be the then senior air traffic control (ATC) officer, a Wing Commander who recalled the Mi-17 to the Srinagar airbase soon after it had taken off at 10 am instead of diverting or “dispersing” it to a designated safe zone or area.
“There was a command and control failure. First, the ATC did not tell the operations/AD unit the helicopter was returning. Then, the AD unit spotted the sRead More – Source