India’s first Chief of Defence Staff dies in Helicopter crash!
Death is raining everywhere. Yesterday it struck on Indian Defence Service killing 13 members in an air crash in south of India. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on the Air Force helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. According to him, General Rawat was on his scheduled tour. On Wednesday at 11.48 a Mi-17 helicopter took off. Air Traffic Control lost its control at around 12:08 am. Later some people saw this helicopter in flames. A rescue team of the local administration reached. All the people that were removed from the remains were taken to the Military Hospital in Wellington. 13 out of 14 people died in the accident. Rajnath Singh condoled the death of 11 army officers including Bipin Rawat and wife Madhulika Rawat.
Apart from four crew members, the other passengers on board were Rawat’s wife Madhulika, Brig LS Lidder, Lt Col Harjinder Singh, NK Gursewak Singh, NK Jitendra Kr, L/Naik Vivek Kumar, L/Naik B Sai Teja and Hav Satpal. The helicopter was piloted by Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, the Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit at Air Force Station, Sulur.
All victims of crash have suffered burn injuries. The Mi-17V5 is considered one of the “safest” and “most modern” military transport helicopters. One must wait for the detailed investigation, but the past record of the helicopter model shows it is impeccable and 100% reliable.
The Mil Mi-17 is a Soviet-designed Russian military helicopter family in production at two factories in Kazan and Ulan-Ude. It is known as the Mi-8M series in Russian service. The helicopter is mostly used as medium twin-turbine transport helicopter, as well as an armed gunship version.
According to amateur video circulating on social media, the helicopter entered into dense fog and then there was a sound of crash landing. There was no distress call from pilot. Villagers responded to the crash site but were prevented for sometime due to fire. The black box has been recovered.
According to grapevine as also the speculation on social media is ripe with speculation that it was a case of sabotage. In this regard following tweet indicate a pattern of such accidents:
General Rawat was famous for his frequent tit for tat remarks on China calling spade a spade. After his death Chinese mouthpiece Global Times spared no time to find fault with Indian Military in these words:
India is known to have a loose and undisciplined military culture, and Indian troops often do not follow standard operating procedures and regulations, another Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
Causes of many previous accidents, including a fire on India’s aircraft carrier in 2019 and an explosion on an Indian submarine in 2013, could all be traced to human error, observers said.
The latest helicopter accident could have been avoided if, for example, the flight was delayed until the weather improved, the pilot had flown more carefully or skillfully, or the ground maintenance crew took better care of the chopper, the anonymous expert said, noting that the accident again exposed the Indian military’s lack of combat preparedness.
The tenor of Global Times’ article and the motive which China has against Gn. Rawat points the finger of suspicion to China, even though there is no proof any wrong doing so far. But I will not be surprised if the enquiry being held finds sabotage as the cause of accident. In any case Global Times also responded to the above tweet of Chellaney calling him anti-China conspiracy theorist. A State media responding to an individual’s tweet is also uusual.
In any case, India has suffered the most sever loss in it’s defence preparedness with the loss of Gn. Rawat but it has to move forward and find a replacement for Gn. Rawat which shall not be easy but it has to be done to achieve the ambition of creating the theatre commands in Northern and Western sectors of India as soon as possible.