New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria Friday admitted that it was a “big mistake” of friendly fire that led to the shooting down of an Mi-17 V5 helicopter in Budgam on 27 February, which killed seven people, including six uniformed personnel.
“The CoI (Court of Inquiry) has been completed last week. It is our mistake. It is a big mistake. We have taken necessary administrative action,” the new Indian Air Force chief said while addressing his maiden press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8.
The chief operations officer and senior air traffic control officer, who were found guilty in the CoI, will be facing court martial proceedings, IAF sources told ThePrint.
The IAF chief asserted that steps are being taken to ensure no such mistake is repeated.
ThePrint had earlier reported that an IAF probe established the incident was a case of friendly fire and two officers have been found guilty.
Chopper mistaken as drone
IAF sources told ThePrint that the chopper was mistaken to be a possible drone when an air battle broke out between India and Pakistan at the LoC in February.
The chopper was shot down by the IAF’s Israeli-made Spyder air defence system following the failure of command and control. Interestingly, the IAF’s Barnala-based Integrated Air Command & Control System, which is tasked with monitoring incoming aircraft from Pakistan, had not designated the helicopter a ‘Red’, the classification for enemy aircraft.
The helicopter’s ‘Identification of Friend or Foe’ system, a transponder-based identification system, was switched off as part of the practice at the Srinagar Air Base.
Probe into Mirage 2000 crash still on
The IAF chief said the inquiry into the 1 February Mirage 2000 crash in Bengaluru is yet to be completed. However, he said the IAF knows that there was an “uncommanded movement” of the aircraft that led to the crash, which killed two test pilots.
“It (CoI) is a priority. We are in full grip of the issue. Something failed and there was an un-commanded movement. We are waiting for some inputs from OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer),” Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said.
Two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots, Squadron Leader Samir Abrol and Squadron Leader Siddhartha Negi, testing the upgraded Mirage 2000 were killed in the crash at the HAL airport in Bengaluru earlier this year.
The pitch rate gyrometers — the sensors that calculate the aircraft’s altitude — sent a wrong input which led to the “un-commanded movement”, the sources said.