The Hush Post | 15:50 | Two-minute read
Six IAF personnel and a civilian were killed on February 27 this year when a Mi-17 helicopter disintegrated and crashed in Budgam.
The tragedy took place when Pakistan fighters launched an attack and in response Indian fighter planes were engaging Pakistan intruders on the day Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s jet was downed in Pakistan’s territory.
Wing Commander’s capture and his release had overshadowed Budgam chopper tragedy. However, some media reports had suggested that friendly fire might have brought the chopper down.
Fearing that it would be an embarrassment, the government and the IAF had not notably said so and preferred to wait for an internal probe to be over.
The strike which is believed to be the biggest “friendly-fire” tragedy in India was probably kept closely guarded secret till the Lok Sabha elections were over as it have embarrassed the Modi government.
Now the Lok Sabha elections are over and the IAF has unofficially admitted that it had shot down its own helicopter by an Israeli-origin air defence system, fired in error.
The details of preliminary probe which began to leak soon after election, reveal several lapses led to the catastrophe.
An Official who requested anonymity said, “Now the election is over and exit polls have indicated the return of Modi Government, some senior officials are leaking the preliminary findings of the inquiry, which has revealed that the helicopter was downed by a surface-to-air missile of the IAF, which mistook the helicopter to be hostile. The crash was the result of friendly fire.”
Meanwhile senior officials refused to comment on reports suggesting the air force may slap criminal charges including “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”, against one officer and three personnel.
The IAF spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Banerjee said, “The court of inquiry is still under way. It’s premature to say anything now.”
When asked why the air force has not denied media reports quoting unnamed IAF sources as saying that the helicopter was shot down in friendly fire, he said, “Let them write whatever they want.”
Meanwhile the IAF has already removed the Air Officer Commander (AOC) of the Srinagar sir base-the senior-most officer of the base-as the crash had happened on his watch.