An army helicopter carrying Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, who heads the three wings of the Indian Army, crashed in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, at 1:17 pm on December 8. Though the Government of India is scheduled to make a detailed statement about the same in the Parliament tomorrow on December 9, primarily, the crash is being attribued to bad weather. The Indian Air Force has instituted a Court of Inquiry(CoI) as the protocol is, even as India’s defence Minister Rajnath Singh has termed the crash as an accident.
There were 13 people in the helicopter at the time of the crash. The helicopter was en route to Wellington from Sulur Airbase. All 13 who were killed in the chopper crash. Those who died in the IAF chopper crash were: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat (CDS Bipin Rawat’s wife), Brig LS Lidder, Lt Col H Singh, Wg Cdr PS Chauhan, Sqn Ldr K Singh, JWO Das, JWO Pradeep A, Hav Satpal, Nk Gursewak Singh, Nk Jitender, L/Nk Vivek, L/Nk S Teja.
Army helicopter crashes in Tamil Nadu- Timeline
- Delhi Departure – Spl aircraft – Wednesday around 9am
- 9 persons including Gen Bipin Rawat and wife
- Arrival AF Station Sulur – 11.35am
- Departure to Willington by Helicopter – 11.45am
- 9 persons including Gen Bipin Rawat and wife+ 5 crew members- total: 14
- Accident took place – Nanchapa Chatharam, Katteri area at 12.20pm
- Distance between Arrival AF Station Sulur – Accident spot about 94km
- Distance between accident spot – Wellington Army camp about 16km
- Time to reach Wellington Army camp from accident spot is just 5 minutes
Russian Helicopter Mi-17V5
The soviet-designed Russian helicopter Mi-17V5 is designed to carry personnel, cargo and equipment inside its cargo cabin or on an external sling. It is capable of dropping tactical air assault forces and reconnaissance teams. It is equipped with modern avionics, the helicopter is capable of operating in any geographical and climatic conditions, day and night, along with adverse weather situations.
The Indian Air Force uses the helicopter to transport cargo and also to deploy troops in operational areas apart from rescue and relief missions across the country. The helicopter can carry a maximum load of 13,000 kilograms, flying at a maximum speed of 250 kilometres per hour. The helicopter is capable of landing on unprepared sites at night and in limited adverse weather conditions.
The Indian Air Force confirmed the incident on Twitter and said an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident. “An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the IAF tweeted.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in 2019. He was scheduled to retire then but a new post was specially created for him by the ruling Narenrdra Modi government and Gen Rawat was promoted as Chief of the Defence Staff. General Rawat was a four-star general as CDS.
Gen Rawat came from a a family with a long tradition of service to the country. General Rawat’s father was also an army officer who retired as a lieutenant general. He studied at St Edward’s School, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh and Cambrian Hall School, Dehradun. He later graduated from the National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla in Pune and later from the Indian Military Academy in 1978, where he was awarded the Sword of Honor. The first posting in his father’s unit was in December 1978 when General Rawat was appointed a lieutenant in the Gorkha Rifles.
Journey from Lieutenant to CDS
After starting his army career as a lieutenant, General Rawat rose to the rank of Army Chief and then to the Chief of Defence Staff, the CDS. He also held several other positions in the Army, including Logistics Staff Officer, Colonel Military Secretary, Deputy Military Secretary, and Senior Instructor in the Junior Command Wing. General Rawat had also been the head of the Southern Army Command.
Master of high-profile combat
General Rawat was instrumental in the surgical strike in June 2015. He specialized in high-profile combat and had conducted a number of operations to combat terrorism and extremist activities. In 2015, NSCN-K’s Naga terrorists ambushed and attacked an Indian Army convoy in Chandel, Manipur. Eighteen soldiers were killed in the attack. After that, the Army carried out a surgical strike across the border in Myanmar and killed the terrorists. The responsibility for the surgical strike rested with Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat, then the 3rd Corps Commander at Dimapur, Nagaland.
General Rawat was the Vice Chief of Army Staff when the Uri attack took place on September 18, 2016. It was only three weeks after he was appointed chief of defense. This was followed by a surgical strike in POK and this time General Rawat again became an important part of the team that carried out the surgical strike.
His wife Madhulika was a social worker
General Rawat’s wife Madhulika was a graduate in psychology from Delhi University. She was a social worker who works especially with cancer patients. After Field Marshal Sam Mankesh and General Dalbir Singh Sahag, Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat was the third army chief to come from the Gorkha Regiment.
Cremation of Gen Rawat in Delhi Cantonment tomorrow
Cremation of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife is likely to be done on Friday in Delhi Cantonment. Their mortal remains are expected to arrive in the national capital on a military aircraft by tomorrow. The bodies will be brought to his house on Friday and people will be allowed to pay last respect from 11am to 2pm. After that, his funeral procession will start from Kamraj Marg to Brar Square crematorium in Delhi Cantonment. Gen Rawat is survived by two daughters. His younger sister and brother will also be there for the last rites.
The Pakistan Army’s spokesman in a short statement posted on Twitter said that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed condolences. The Pakistani Air Force tweeted: “Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, NI(M) Chief of the Air Staff Pakistan Air Force; has expressed his condolences on the tragic death of Indian CDS Gen Bipin Rawat, his spouse, and 11 other passengers/crew members in the helicopter crash today.”
The Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said, “Russia has lost a very close friend, who played a big role in [the] promotion of our bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership. Grieving together with India. Goodbye, friend! Farewell, commander!”