Indian Air Force Officers Face Criminal Case For Killing Own Mi-17 Chopper In Budgam

Source: India Times The inquiry into the Budgam incident, in which a Mi-17 V-5 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed close to the Srinagar airfield on February 27, is believed to have revealed several violations of standard operating procedures. Further, the role of a senior officer who ordered a ground-based missile to be fired is also said to have come under scrutiny, according to persons familiar with the developments. The inquiry into the Budgam incident, in which a Mi-17 V-5 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed close to the Srinagar airfield on February 27, is believed to have revealed several violations of standard operating procedures. Further, the role of a senior officer who ordered a ground-based missile to be fired is also said to have come under scrutiny, according to persons familiar with the developments.

The probe will also look at why the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system — that is supposed to be on the helicopter — didn’t work. The inquiry into the incident — now being seen as a case of friendly fire — will shortly move to the next step of ‘summary of evidence’, in which more than one officer could potentially be charged with culpable homicide, not amounting to murder. On February 27, a Mi-17 V-5 chopper of the Srinagar-based 154 Helicopter Unit crashed within 10 minutes of taking off even as a dogfight raged over 100 km away between intruding Pakistani jets and the IAF, in which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthamanwas involved. Six IAF personnel on board and a civilian on the ground had lost their lives in the crash. 

According to multiple reports, a Court of Inquiry (CoI) in the matter has fixed the responsibility on the senior officials of the Srinagar Air Base for ‘violating the standard operating procedures’. The incident reportedly took place as the chopper came under a friendly fire as the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system on the chopper was switched off. 

“Unprecedented as it might be, IAF leadership is clear that such lapses are not repeated,” Hindustan Times quoted a senior defence ministry official as saying.

According to the HT report, the CoI has found out a number of lapses in the SoPs. For instance, when the engagement between IAF and PAF jets ensued, the chopper should have been sent to a safer location meant for friendly aircraft. Instead, the chopper reportedly continued to fly without being identifiable, thus falling prey to the air defence platforms.

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