When there is an election in the largest democracy of the world, everything else comes at standstill. We have witnessed a high intensity campaign by both the ruling as well as the opposition parties. Tomorrow is the day when results are to be declared. Irrespective of which party will form a government, I am happy that the country will now be able to shift its focus on many other important priorities pending before it. I am hoping that other important news will be able to find its place during prime time. One such news is the “reports pertains to gunning down of our own Mi 17 V5 Chopper in a friendly fight”.
On 14th of February 2019, Pakistan based terrorist outfit carried a barbaric attack on Indian Armed Force in Pulwama (Kashmir) which killed more than 40 soldiers. Indian Air Force retaliated by launching an Air Strike in terrorist launch pads by going deep into the territory of Pakistan. Situation became very tensed after that between the two nuclear armed nations and war was on the brink. Pakistan Air Force also crossed the LoC (Line of Control) and tried to attacked some military installations in Indian side. But that misadventure was thwarted by Indian Sukhoi and other warplanes. Then came the watershed event, when Abhinandan Vardhman, an IAF pilot, was shot down by Pakistani Planes when he was engaged in a dog fight with them. Everyone knows what followed after that. Abhinandan became the face of resilience and grit at the time of adversity. Whole nation became euphoric on his return to home and “I should not tell you this” became the catchphrase of the time.
But one heart wrenching event also occurred during that time. But it did not get as much attention as it desrved. One Mi17 helicopter of Indian Air Force, which was carrying military persons, got crashed in Budgaon (Kashmir) soon after it took off, killing all the 6 persons on board and one civilian also killed in the event. The crash time was same when many Paksitani Fighter Planes had infringed the Indian Air space and had targeted military installation. Due to the timing, speculation became rife that what led to the crash of the chopper. Has PAF shot it down? Were there any technical glitches in the chopper? Many other possible speculations were floating in the market.
But now nearly three months after the fatal event Committee of Inquiry (CoI) formed by IAF is about to submit its report on the reasons which led to the crash of the Mi17. As the news is now surfacing the reason for crash is very disturbing. As the claims goes, and its most likely to be true, it was not Pakistani jets which had shot down the chopper but Indian Air Defence System was responsible for this.
It is believed that there were several procedural lapses in the event. As I have understood till now, mainly three procedural breaches are responsible. The first and most important was that the Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) System was switched off. Basically this system is transponder based device which communicates with the Radar and helps in identification of the craft. Since on 27th of February many Paksitani Jets has also entered the Indian Air space and that chopper was very near to the Base, hence it was mistakenly identified as the chopper of the adversary and hence it was shot down.
The other reason, according to one senior official of IAF was that the Air Traffic Controller directed the chopper to return back to the base as dog fight was going on mid air between the jets of the two nations, instead he could have directed the pilot to go to some safe locations instead.”
The last reason points to failure of the personnel who operated the Israeli made Spyder surface to air missile system, as he should have conclusively ascertained the identity of the chopper before launching the missile.
Whatever could be the reason, Indian Air Force lost six of its brave soldiers, along with one chopper, who sacrificed their life not by the hand of their adversaries but due to the mistake of their own compatriots. I am unable to comprehan I know that situation was very critical at that time, but an armed force which is considered very professional in their act and their officers are recruited by a very competitive and a tough screening process cannot afford to lose head during critical situations. I know I have not experienced that situation but since the feeling is very strong at this moment for all the six men hence I believe the culprit should be punished so that these events should not occur in future.