Feb 27 Incident: Was Helicopter Hit by IAF Missile?

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SRINAGAR — The Indian Air Force has transferred the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the Srinagar base in the midst of a court of inquiry(CoI) probing the crash of an Mi-17 helicopter in Kashmir during a standoff with Pakistan on February 27, Press Trust of India Tuesday quoted official sources as saying.  The CoI is also probing whether the helicopter crashed after being accidentally hit by the IAF’s air defence system, following which action including slapping of criminal charges may be initiated  against the guilty.

The senior-most official of the strategic base was removed to ensure impartial probe into the crash, the news agency quoted sources as saying.

The helicopter crashed in Budgam on February 27 when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in a fierce aerial combat, a day after India claimed to have carried an airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

The Pakistani Air Force had unsuccessfully attempted to target various Indian military installations in Kashmir on February 27, the IAF had said.

Quoting sources, PTI reported that the CoI was “also probing whether the helicopter crashed after being accidentally hit by the IAF’s air defence system, which was on highest alert following the Balakot strikes.”

 “They said the IAF will initiate action based on the report of the CoI which may include slapping of criminal case against those found guilty,” it said.

There have been reports that the helicopter was hit by IAF’s own air defence system. However, the IAF is yet to make any official comment on the issue.

The sources said the CoI was specifically probing whether a surface-to-air missile of IAF hit the chopper and whether the Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) system on board the helicopter was switched off.

The IFF helps air defence radars to identify whether an aircraft or helicopter is friendly or hostile.

 Meanwhile, a report in The Economic Times said the inquiry is believed to have revealed several violations of standard operating procedures. “Further, the role of a senior officer who ordered a groundbased missile to be fired is also said to have come under scrutiny, according to persons familiar with the developments,”  the report said.

“The inquiry into the incident — now being seen as a case of friendly fire — will shortly move to the next step of ‘summary of evidence’, in which more than one officer could potentially be charged with culpable homicide, not amounting to murder.”

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