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IAF confirmed for first time,it shot down one of its own helicopters

05 October, 2019

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The Indian Air Force confirmed for the first time on Friday that it shot down one of its own helicopters during clashes with Pakistan in February over Kashmir, killing all six on board.

“A court of inquiry was completed and it was our mistake that our missile hit our chopper,” said the head of the air force, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria. “We will ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future,” he told reporters. The military helicopter crashed on February 27 as Indian and Pakistani aircraft engaged in dogfights over Kashmir in their most serious military skirmish in years. The Mi-17 helicopter had crashed at Budgam, near Srinagar. A surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force had brought down the Mi-17 aircraft, a high-level probe had concluded in August.

“Mi17 V5 is one of the sturdiest choppers in service across the world and is not usually prone to technical faults of catastrophic nature,” Indian business newspaper The Economic Times had reported in March. “Eyewitness 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.”

An inquiry into the accident had indicated several lapses leading to the tragedy, said the Hindustan Times. “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 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. All bases have designated airspace for friendly aircraft in case of an air defence alert,” said the Hindustan Times report.

The Indian side had acknowledged the crash but initially made no mention of it in official statements. The Pakistan Army, meanwhile, acknowledged the aerial battle over Nowshera but said its fighters were not involved in the chopper incident. A day earlier, Indian aircraft had bombed what New Delhi called a “terror camp” used by the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Balakot area of Pakistan. That followed a suicide bombing on February 14 claimed that killed 40 Indian troops. The Indian military at the time gave no reason for the helicopter crash, although media reports cited unnamed sources as saying it was a friendly fire. Confusion still surrounds how many other aircraft were shot down, with Pakistan saying it downed two Indian fighter jets but India saying it lost only one. India, meanwhile, said it shot down a Pakistani F-16 – an assertion repeated by Bhadauria on Friday – but Pakistan denied this at the time.

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