Months after an Indian Air Force MI-17 chopper was downed in friendly fire during the post-Balakot situation, the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the Srinagar Air Base has been removed even as the Court-of-Inquiry (CoI) continues. Latest media reports point to the action taken by the Air force, which also almost confirms the friendly fire theory. In layman terms, it means that the MI-17 chopper was downed by our own air force. Now, the probe is looking into the circumstances that led to the fatal crash. The 27 February crash of a Mi-17 helicopter killed six IAF personnel and a civilian in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam.
Amid the ongoing probe, there are reports that stringent action will be taken against other top officials. According to The Print report, an IAF officer and three others posted at the Srinagar Air Base could be booked for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the 27 February crash. “They could be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder but this has not been established yet,” The Print quoted an unnamed officer as saying.
Earlier, the Indian Air Force had rejected a media report, which had said that the Court of Inquiry into the Mi17 chopper crash on February 27 was put on hold due to Lok Sabha elections. The report published in leading daily Business Standard had said that the CoI looking into the circumstances of the crash of the sturdy chopper on February 27 over Budgam skies was ordered to ‘go slow’. Six IAF personnel and a civilian were killed in the crash, which so far is believed to be a rare case of ‘friendly fire.’ In simple words, this means that India downed its own chopper. The Business Standard report spoke about how the Mi17 crash report would not gone well with the post-Pulwama and Balakot scenario in the poll season.
However, the Indian Air Force took to Twitter and rejected the media report. In a series of tweets, the air force said that the article written by Ajai Shukla is ‘his imagination.’ “Today in an article written by Ajai Shukla he has incorrectly speculated that the IAF Court of Inquiry constituted to investigate the Mi-17 V5 crash at Srinagar on 27 Feb has been put on hold. This is his imagination and IAF categorically denies this,” the air force said.
On the so-called delay in the probe, the air force said that, “CoI (Court of Inquiry) of aircraft accidents are meticulous & time consuming. All past inquiries of aircraft accidents bear testimony to this. Proceedings of a CoI are not commented upon by IAF till completion of the inquiry in all cases. There is no connection between elections & completion of CoI.”
An earlier report by the Economic Times had revealed that the Indian Air Force may have downed its own Mi-17 V5 over Budgam on February 27 last month. The report said that the fresh evidences point to a startling lapse of ‘Identity, Friend or Foe’ protocol that could have led to the shooting down of the sturdy chopper. Seven people including a civilian were killed in the crash that took place in Garend Kalan village of Budgam at around 10.40 am on the fateful day.