The Indian Air Force (IAF) continues to be plagued by controversies as an investigation has revealed a link between an air defence missile launch by Indian forces and the crash of the Mi-17 helicopter at Budgam in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) that killed seven including six IAF personnel and a civilian on the ground.
A report by the Economic Times said that investigators were examining the sequence of events that preceded the crash.
“The final moments preceding the crash, including if the IFF (Identity, Friend or Foe) systems were switched on or not, are being carefully looked at to determine what went wrong,” read the ET report.
Citing highly placed sources, the report said that the IAF brass had asserted it would not shy away from initiating court-martial proceedings against personnel found responsible in the inquiry for the missile launch.
The focus of the investigation, ET wrote, is to determine “if multiple layers of safeguards meant to protect assets from friendly fire failed and how systems need to be improved to prevent any such incident in the future”.
Sources told the daily that the missile, believed to be of Israeli origin, was activated following an air defence alert over the occupied territory and the presence of Pakistan Air Force jets along the border.
The sources further claimed that the alert “indicated” that Pakistani jets may have breached the border. “A slow moving target like the Mi-17 helicopter could potentially be mistaken for a low flying armed UAV homing into an air base,” they told ET.
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“When an air defence alert is sounded, several things take place. There are a set of rules that transport aircraft and helicopters need to follow and there are set entry and egress routes demarcated for aircraft flying. Also, aircraft are to switch on their IFF (Identify, Friend or Foe) systems,” sources told ET.
The inquiry is being conducted by a senior officer – who has been given access to all available input with ground controllers as well as the actions of the chopper in the ten minutes it was in the air.
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New Delhi acknowledged the crash while officials in Srinagar said the chopper broke into two and caught fire immediately. On the other hand, eyewitnesses said a loud explosion was heard before the chopper crashed.
The crash happened the same day when PAF shot down two Indian warplanes after they intruded into its airspace while responding to a Pakistani aerial mission on targets inside IoK.