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IAF admits downing own chopper, ‘big mistake, will take action’ says Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria

"We have taken steps to ensure safe radio communication. They won’t be able to hear our communication", said IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria answering on whether Pakistan would be able to jam India's communication with pilots as they reportedly did in case of Wing Cdr Abhinandan.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria in a press release on Friday admitted that the downing of Mi17 chopper on February 27 was a big mistake of the Indian Air Force.

“Court of Inquiry has been completed and it was our mistake as our missile had hit our own chopper. 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 future,” said the newly appointed IAF Chief during a press conference.

On February 27, the day Indian and Pakistani air forces were engaged in a fierce dogfight, a Mi-17 IAF helicopter crashed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam after it was hit by an Indian missile.

The helicopter was flown by Sqdn Leader Siddharth Vashisht with other members Sqdn Ldr Ninad Mandvgane, Kumar Pandey, Sergeant Vikrant Sehrawat, Corporals Deepak Pandey and Pankaj Kumar. It crashed at Budgam after taking off from Srinagar airport at 10.10 am, soon after Pakistani Air Force jets had attempted to violate the Indian airspace at around 9.30 am that day.

The fierce engagement had forced Pakistan to abandon its misadventure at Uri but the air defence system is believed to have fired at the helicopter by then, killing all the personnel and a civilian on the ground, officials had said at the time of the incident. A high-level probe had found at least four officers guilty for the crash.

An Indian Air Force court of inquiry confirmed that the aircraft became the unfortunate target of its own forces, contrary to Pakistan’s claim that they had shot it down. The probe confirmed that the ‘Identification of Friend or Foe’ (IFF) system on-board the helicopter was switched off and there was a “vital gap” in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper.

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

Moreover, elaborating on the Balakot strikes, the air chief said, “Air Force has achieved many important milestones in the last year including 26th February when we successfully targeted terror camps in Balakot. On 27th February in the aerial battle after attack by Pakistan, Indian Air Force lost one MiG-21 and Pakistan lost one F-16.”

Speaking on the future possibility of Balakot-like strike, he said, “If there is a terror strike (from Pakistan), it will be responded as per the government decision on it.”

Answering ANI’s question on whether Pakistan would be able to jam India’s communication with pilots as they did in case of Wing Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria said that: We have taken steps to ensure safe radio communication. They won’t be able to hear our communication.

It was reported earlier that the Indian Wing Commander, Abinandan Varthaman, whose aircraft was shot down on February 27 during a dogfight with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets and he was captured subsequently, could not hear instructions asking him to turn back because his communications system was jammed by Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force on Friday also showcased the story of the Balakot aerial strikes through a promotional video at the annual Air Force Day press conference, addressed by Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria.

In a brave retaliation to the ghastly Pulwama attack, India had conducted the Balakot airstrike in the wee hours of February 26 when Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistani territory and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the town of Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

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