The Court of Inquiry (CoI) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that is investigating the Mi-17 helicopter crash, which killed six personnel and one civilian , is expected to submit its findings in the next couple of weeks, IAF officials said on Tuesday. With the preliminary findings indicating that the aircraft was shot down by India’s own ground-based air defence systems, action is likely to be initiated once the summary of evidence is presented.
“Yes, preliminary indications are that the Mi-17 was shot down by Israeli origin Spyder surface-to-air defence missile system,” said an IAF official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But the CoI is still finalising its report. We expect it within a couple of weeks,” the official added. The final report is expected to put to rest the speculation surrounding the incident, which occurred a day after the Balakot air strike .
The Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Srinagar airbase, an Air Commodore, had been transferred out in early May while the investigation was in progress, another official said, declining to be identified.
With clear signs that point to the violation of procedures, there are indications that criminal charges may be initiated against the officers responsible. However, when asked about the nature of charges that could be filed, an official said they would “await the CoI proceedings as any comments now would influence the fair conduct of the CoI”. An IAF spokesperson declined to comment, when contacted.
On the morning of February 27, as fighter jets of India and Pakistan were engaged in combat over the Naushera sector, the Mi-17 with six IAF personnel crashed in Budgam, shortly after take-off from Srinagar. All six on-board and one civilian were killed in the incident.
Preliminary findings have found several procedural violations surrounding the crash. Top among them is that the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, a transponder based identification device that communicates with radars to indicate whether an aircraft is friendly or hostile, was switched off. Due to this, in the midst of the air battle over the skies close by, the Mi-17 was mistakenly identified as belonging to the adversary.