Gulf News

Air force helicopter crashes over the Siachen glacier

Massive search operation launched in Kashmir to locate two pilots “We do not know what happened and a hunt is on to trace the pilots.”

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A twoseater Indian Air Force (IAF) Cheetah helicopter crashed over the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday morning.

The crash prompted a massive search operation to locate the two pilots and a court of inquiry has been ordered.

“It was on a routine flying mission and crashed at the Amar helipad in the north Siachen glacier. At this point, we do not know what happened and a hunt is on to trace the pilots,” said an IAF source.

Squadron leader S. Basu and flight lieutenant Amit Sharma were on the helicopter when it took off at 7am from the Siachen base camp, located at a height of 12,225 feet.

The Cheetah helicopter is used to drop supplies to soldiers along posts on the glacier that rises to a height of over 20,000 feet and is disputed by India and Pakistan.

The crash comes two days after the new IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, said the force had recorded its lowest rate of 0.36 per cent accidents in its 75-year history.

This is the fourth crash in the air force this year beginning with the Jaguar accident at the Nal base camp in Rajasthan in January, followed by the crash of the Dhruv advance helicopter while rehearsing for the aero show in Yelahanka and then the MIG 21 crash near Kurseong in Darjeeling on March 1.

The air force operates 220 Cheetah and Chetak helicopter­s and nearly 20 of them are deployed in the Siachen glacier. They were inducted some 30 years ago.

A total of 65 military aircraft have crashed in the past four years, claiming 58 lives.

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