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Helicopter straying into PoK
Army will change codes of helipads, call signs in Ladakh
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi October 25
Two days after an Army helicopter strayed into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) after crossing the Line of Control (LoC) in the Drass sector, the code names of the helipads that dot the Himalayas in Ladakh will be changed along with the calls signs of the pilots of the Army Aviation Corps operating in that militarily sensitive mountainous region.

The process has started and will be completed over the next couple of days. Sources said the move has been initiated after it was suspected that Pakistan authorities, who questioned the four Army personnel during their stay in the PoK, had read the global positioning system aboard the copter to establish whether or not the Indian crew was speaking the truth.

Indian authorities had said the helicopter carrying two pilots, an engineer and a Junior Commissioned Officer had strayed into PoK airspace due to inclement weather conditions.

The LoC in the Drass-Kragil sector runs across a ridgeline that has an average height of 11,000 feet. The incident occurred around 1.20 pm on Sunday and the Indian crew was released four hours later following intervention from the Directors General of Military Operations and senior diplomats on both sides.

It was but quite obvious that Pakistan authorities, after quizzing the Indian crew, studied the GPS to establish whether or not they were speaking the truth, admitted a functionary. However, he added that there was no major cause for alarm. All that needs to be done is to change the code names of helipads and call signs of pilots, he added.

The process of changing call signs of pilots is a continuous one and at times these are normally changed once a week. An official explained the codes of helipads are not by the name of the place. For example, a helipad in Drass will not necessarily be called Drass. It could be identified by just a number or even a alpha-numeric code.

The Cheetah does not have any other guiding system for the pilots like an international navigation system (INS) or an electronic command and control suite.

The copter that strayed into the PoK had a GPS system on-board which records its movement and on a prompt from the pilot, displays the coordinates and code names of the helipads in the vicinity. This information is recorded on the hard drive of the GPS.

Army sources, however, down played the apprehension that Pakistan would now be able to read the coordinates of India’s helipads.





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