NEW DELHI: Air Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Friday described as a "big mistake" the IAF shooting down its helicopter in Kashmir on February 27, when Indian and Pakistani forces engaged in a dogfight, and said disciplinary action is being taken against two officers.
The operational preparedness of the IAF has been of a very high order and it achieved a number of operational milestones last year, including the Balakot strike, Bhadauria said at the Indian Air Force's annual press conference.
The IAF is prepared to meet any contingency and does not rest on past laurels, Bhadauria, who took over as chief of the force on Monday, said in his first press conference. Ahead of the press conference, the IAF showed representational video clips of the Balakot strikes.
Pakistan lost an F-16 and India a MiG-21 in aerial engagement with the Pakistan Air Force a day after the Balakot strikes, IAF chief Bhadauria said. Talking about the IAF shooting down its own Mi-17 helicopter in Budgam on the morning of February 27, he said it was a "big mistake on our part".
A Court of inquiry has submitted its report and the IAF is taking punitive action against the guilty, he said. Disciplinary action is being taken against two officers in the shooting down of the chopper, the IAF chief said. Bhadauria also said acquisition of Rafale aircraft and S400 air defence systems will greatly enhance IAF's operational capabilities.
A surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force brought down the Mi-17 aircraft in Kashmir's Budgam on the morning of February 27 when the Indian and Pakistani air forces were engaged in a fierce dogfight, a high-level probe had concluded in August.
Six IAF personnel on board and a civilian on the ground were killed in the crash, a day after India's air strike on a terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan. The Court of Inquiry into the crash found the Mi-17 V-5 helicopter was hit by a ground-based missile of the IAF while on its way back to Srinagar air base, military sources had said.
It also found that the 'Identification of Friend or Foe' (IFF) system on-board the helicopter was switched off and there were "vital gaps" in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper.