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Shooting Our Own Helicopter Was A ‘Big Mistake’: IAF chief

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NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria admitted on Friday that the Mi-17 helicopter crash on February 27 – the day when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets engaged in a dogfight – was a “big mistake” on part of the air force, according to the Indian media.

The Mi-17 helicopter had crashed at Budgam near Srinagar which resulted in the deaths of six air force personnel. According to The Hindu, a high-level investigation into the incident undertaken in August reached the conclusion that the chopper was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired by the IAF.

Though the Indian side had admitted to the crash but they refrained from mentioning the incident in official statements. On the other hand, Pakistan’s military acknowledged that an aerial battle had in fact taken place over Nowshera and said that its pilots were not involved in the incident.

“Mi-17 V5 is one of the sturdiest choppers in service across the world and is not usually prone to technical faults of catastrophic nature,” The Economic Times had reported in March.

The report further stated that, “Eyewitnesses reported that a loud explosion was heard in the air before the chopper crashed in a trail of smoke, indicating a possible catastrophic external event contributed to the incident.”

While speaking to media persons on Friday, Bhadauria said that “it was our mistake as our missile had hit our own chopper”.

“Court of Inquiry has completed […] we will take action against the two officers. We accept this was our big mistake and we will ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future,” he told India Today.

Further, Bhadauria said that the IAF was considering categorising the deaths in the air crash as “battle casualties”, reported Hindustan Times.

Earlier, an inquiry conducted into the accident had revealed several errors that led to the tragedy. The newspaper reported, “For instance, the inquiry had faulted the air traffic control for calling back the helicopter as air engagement between Indian and Pakistani fighters intensified.”

“Ideally, the helicopter should have been sent away to a safer zone instead of it being called back to the base. Also, the incoming helicopter should have been vectored to the pre-designated zone that is meant for friendly aircraft to hold till the alert was called off,” the report added.

“All bases have designated airspace for friendly aircraft in case of an air defence alert,” said the Hindustan Times report.

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