The ongoing investigation into the Mi-17 helicopter crash in Budgam near Srinagar International airport has found two Indian Air Force (IAF) officers guilty. They will now reportedly face court-martial. The Mi-17 chopper had crashed near the Srinagar IAF base leading to the death of six IAF personnel onboard and one civilian. The incident happened at a time when India and Pakistan were engaged in aerial combat and various F-16 fighter jets of Pakistan had intruded into the Indian air space after the Balakote strike.
The enquiry set up by the IAF revealed that at least two IAF officers who were in charge of the Srinagar air force ordered the shooting of the missile mistaking the Indian helicopter with that of an enemy target. Pakistan distanced itself from the incident saying that it did not bring down the Mi-17 helicopter in Budgam.
"The court of inquiry is likely to be concluded soon. Strong disciplinary action which could amount to a court-martial is likely to be recommended against the two officers in the case," sources told India Today
The Mi-17 chopper was flown by Squadron Leader Siddharth Vashisht. Others on the flight were Squadron Leader Ninad Mandvgane, Kumar Pandey, Sergeant Vikrant Sehrawat, corporals Deepak Pandey and Pankaj Kumar.
Serious procedural lapses?
Among some of the grave procedural lapses found by the IAF court of enquiry for which the officers have been found guilty of include calling back the Mi-17 helicopter for landing at Srinagar air base when they could have easily directed its landing at a safer point. The IAF air commanding base also could not differentiate between its own fighter copter and an enemy one, thus shooting down the Mi-17 chopper with an air defence missile.
IAF officers in charge of the air base at Srinagar have been charged with culpable homicide (not amounting to murder) and could even face the termination of services. The investigations are also being done on why the Identity Friend Foe (IFF) system on the chopper didn't work even as there were directions that day that it should be switched on. The IFF helps distinguish between friendly and foe fire. The Mi-17 helicopter was reportedly in touch with the ground controllers moments before the crash. There was no perceived threat of any ground missile being fired at that time.