India

Air Commanding Officer removed over Budgam chopper crash, likely to face criminal charges: Report

Indian Air Force (IAF) has removed the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Srinagar Air Base – the senior-most officer of the base, in wake of the investigations going on into the crash of Mi-17 helicopter in Budgam district near Srinagar on February 27 this year.

On February 27, even as Indian and Pakistani jets were engaged in a fight in the Nowshera sector, a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter of IAF crashed. All six airmen on board the helicopter and a civilian lost their lives. The helicopter was downed by a surface-to-air missile of IAF which mistook the aircraft to be hostile, initial inquiries have revealed, according to a Hindustan Times report.

The report quoted a senior defence ministry official said that, “There will be no tolerance of lapses”. Adding further, the official said “Unprecedented as it might be, IAF leadership is clear that such lapses are not repeated.” Culpable homicide not amounting to murder is one of the charges that IAF is thinking about pressing against those found guilty by the CoI.

The AOC has been removed because the incident happened on his watch, the daily’s report said.

The preliminary inquiry into the accident has allegedly indicated several lapses leading to the tragic accident. For instance, the air traffic control called the helicopter back even as air engagement between Indian and Pakistani fighters intensified, the report mentioned.

“Ideally, the helicopter should have been sent away to safer zone instead of it being called back to the base. The incoming helicopter should have been vectored into the pre-designated zone meant for friendly aircraft to hold till the alert was called off,” Hindustan Times reported.

Was Mi17 chopper shot down by own defence system?

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