The Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17 helicopter that crashed on February 27 in Kashmir was due to friendly fire and a big mistake, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria said on Friday.
All six personnel onboard and one civilian on the ground were killed in the crash
This is the first time the IAF has officially acknowledged it.
“It was a big mistake, action being initiated against two IAF personnel,” ACM Bhadauria said at his first press conference as the Chief of the Air Staff ahead of the Air Force Day.
Following the findings of a Court of Inquiry (CoI), corrective measures had been taken to prevent such occurences. Those who lost their lives would be declared battle casualties, said ACM Bhadauria, who took over as the 26th Air Force Chief on September 30 from ACM B.S. Dhanoa.
On February 27 morning, as fighter jets of India and Pakistan were engaged in a dog fight over the Naushera sector, a day after the Balakot air strike, the Mi-17 crashed in Budgam shortly after take-off from Srinagar.
The CoI had confirmed that the copter was shot by an Israeli-origin ground-based Spyder surface-to-air missile of the IAF. It found at least four officers, including a Group Captain, responsible for the crash, defence sources had stated.
The Air Force was prepared to fight at short notice along with the other Services and the acquisition of Rafale fighters and the S-400 air defence systems would significantly enhance its operational capability, ACM Bhadauria said.
Push to indigenisation
Talking of modernisation, he said 'Make in India' would remain their main focus and they would continue to induct indigenous systems to reduce dependence.
The IAF was about to complete price negotiations for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, he stated.
“I have been hearing about acquisition of 36 more Rafale jets. But nothing has been moved. There is no separate plans to have any additional quantity of Rafale jets,” he stated.
The first four Rafale jets would “hit the Indian skies by the end of May next” after the training of pilots in France. As the deputy Air Chief, ACM Bhadauria played a key role in the negotiations for 36 Rafale jets.
ACM Bhadauria “ruled out” the possibility of importing a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and reposed faith on the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation on which “work has already started.”