New Delhi: The Mi-17 Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter that crashed February 27 in Budgam in Jammu and Kashmir was hit by an Indian missile, according to a high-level probe that found at least four officers guilty. Six military personnel and a civilian were killed in the incident.
At least four officers, including a group captain, were held responsible for the crash of the chopper and are set to face severe punishment, military sources said on Friday.
There was no immediate comment from the Indian Air Force on the findings of the probe.
The IAF headquarters had ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident under an Air Commodore-ranked officer. It found that the ‘Identification of Friend or Foe’ (IFF) system on-board the helicopter was switched off and there was a ‘vital gap’ in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper.
The IFF helps air defence radars identify whether an aircraft or helicopter is friendly or hostile. “The guilty personnel will face severe punishment as per provisions of the military law,” said a source, adding that the IAF top brass will decide on the quantum of punishment to those held responsible for the incident.
In early May, the IAF transferred the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Srinagar base to ensure a thorough probe into the incident.
The helicopter crashed in Budgam on the same day when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in aerial combat, a day after India’s air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan.
Sources said the CoI was also specifically focusing on examining the role of various people, including those controlling the air defence system when the helicopter was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
They said the IAF will initiate action based on the report of the CoI. This could include charging the guilty with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the sources added.