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Army Chief hails decision to set up air defence command

NEW DELHI (PTI): Army Chief Gen M M Naravane has hailed the Defence Ministry's decision to set up an Air Defence Command, saying its formation would help in preventing incidents like the IAF shooting down its own helicopter in Kashmir and Iran downing an Ukrainian passenger jet.

Last week, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat issued directions to all stakeholders to prepare a roadmap by June 30 to create an Air Defence Command to enhance security of India's skies.

Formation of an Air Defence Command is a step in the right direction to ensure that such incidents do not occur, he said on Saturday at a press conference on the eve of Army Day.

"I am sure that if we put all our efforts, I can say with reasonable degree of confidence that such incidents will not happen as far as we are concerned," he said.

On Wednesday, Iran shot down a Ukrainian aircraft, killing all 176 people on board.

The downing of the plane came hours after Iran launched missile attacks on two US airbases in Iraq in retaliation to killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike. Iran Saturday said it "unintentionally" shot down the aircraft.

On February 27, the IAF shot down one of its helicopter in Kashmir when Indian and Pakistani air forces were engaged in a dogfight.

A surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force brought down the Mi-17 aircraft in Budgam in the Kashmir Valley, killing six IAF personnel on board the chopper and a civilian on the ground.

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal had described the incident as a "big mistake".

To a separate question, the Army Chief said the six Apache attack helicopters being procured by the Army would be deployed in formations guarding the border with Pakistan.

He said the chopper would be deployed at locations where there is a threat of armoured columns.

"Six Apache choppers would be given to an Army unit on the western borders," he said.

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