Indian Air Force chief Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria on Friday admitted that the Mi-17 chopper crash on February 27 — the same day as the dogfight between Pakistani and Indian jets — was a "big mistake" on part of the force, reported Indian media.
The Mi-17 helicopter had crashed at Budgam, near Srinagar, and resulted in the deaths of six air force personnel. A surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force had brought down the Mi-17 aircraft, a high-level probe had concluded in August, according to The Hindu.
The Indian side had acknowledged the crash but initially made no mention of it in official statements. The Pakistani military, meanwhile, acknowledged the aerial battle over Nowshera but said its fighters were not involved in the chopper incident.
“Mi17 V5 is one of the sturdiest choppers in service across the world and is not usually prone to technical faults of catastrophic nature," Indian business newspaper The Economic Times had reported in March. "Eyewitness reported that a loud explosion was heard in the air before the chopper crashed in a trail of smoke, indicating a possible catastrophic external event contributed to the incident.”
Speaking to the media on Friday, Bhadauria said "it was our mistake as our missile had hit our own chopper".
"Court of Inquiry has completed [...] we will take action against the two officers. We accept this was our big mistake and we will ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future," India Today quoted him as saying.
Bhadauria, who took charge as the Indian Air Force chief on Monday, said that the air force is also considering designating all personnel killed in air-crash as “battle casualties”, reported Hindustan Times.
An inquiry into the accident had indicated several lapses leading to the tragedy, said the publication: "For instance, the inquiry had faulted the air traffic control for calling back the helicopter as air engagement between Indian and Pakistani fighters intensified.
"Ideally the helicopter should have been sent away to safer zone instead of it being called back to the base. Also, the incoming helicopter should have been vectored to the pre-designated zone that is meant for friendly aircraft to hold till the alert was called off.
"All bases have designated airspace for friendly aircraft in case of an air defence alert," said the Hindustan Times report.