The Indian Air Force on Saturday 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 ongoing 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.
CoI 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.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) April 27, 2019
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.
It should be noted that the crash coincided with airspace violation by Pakistani fighter jets. As many as 24 Pakistani combat jets intruded into the India airspace on February 27 to take the revenge of the pre-dawn Balakot air strike. According to the Economic Times report, on that day, when the Indian Air Force intercepted the Pakistani intrusion, an air defence alert was sounded. The report says that a probe has been launched to determine the sequence of the events and how that stringent safeguards were overlooked. The report says that the top air force officials have indicated that court martial proceedings will be initiated against the person responsible for such a lapse.
According to the Economic Times report, an Israeli missile was activated after the air defence alert. It is yet to be established whether this missile downed the Mi17 chopper, which is generally described as a case of ‘friendly fire’ in defence parlance. The report says that the chopper could have been mistaken for UAV sent by the enemy. Earlier, officials in Srinagar had described the downed aircraft as a jet. They said the aircraft broke into two and caught fire immediately. Interestingly, Pakistan had denied shooting down the chopper.
This is the same day when Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had downed the Pakistani F-16 in the aerial dogfight that lasted for about 90 seconds. The events after the airspace invasion centred around Abhinandan’s captivity.