In one of the most sensational report that can change the perception about aerial dogfight over the Line of Control, a latest report by the Economic Times reveals that the Indian Air Force may have downed its own Mi-17 V5 over Budgam on February 27 last month. The report says that the fresh evidences point to a startling lapse of ‘Identity, Friend or Foe’ protocol that could have led to the shooting down of the sturdy chopper. Seven people including a civilian were killed in the crash that took place in Garend Kalan village of Budgam at around 10.40 am on the fateful day.
It should be noted that the crash coincides with airspace violation by Pakistani fighter jets. As many as 24 Pakistani combat jets intruded into the India airspace on February 27 to take the revenge of the pre-dawn Balakot air strike. According to the Economic Times report, on that day, when the Indian Air Force intercepted the Pakistani intrusion, an air defence alert was sounded. The report says that a probe ahs been launched to determine the sequence of the events and how that stringent safeguards were overlooked. The report says that the top air force officials have indicated that court martial proceedings will be initiated against the person responsible for such a lapse.
According to the Economic Times report, an Israeli missile was activated after the air defence alert. It is yet to be established whether this missile downed the Mi17 chopper, which is generally described as a case of ‘friendly fire’ in defence parlance. The report says that the chopper could have been mistaken for UAV sent by the enemy. Earlier, officials in Srinagar had described the downed aircraft as a jet. They said the aircraft broke into two and caught fire immediately. Interestingly, Pakistan had denied shooting down the chopper.
This is the same day when Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had downed the Pakistani F-16 in the aerial dogfight that lasted for about 90 seconds. The events after the airspace invasion centred around Abhinandan’s captivity.