It has been more than a week since an AN-32 medium-lift transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) went missing last Monday while on a routine flight from Jorhat in Assam to Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh. Despite all-out efforts by the IAF and the Army, the search and rescue teams have not been able to make any headway in locating the aircraft or getting to know about the fate of 13 crew members and passengers onboard.
What kind of assets have been deployed by IAF to look for AN-32 aircraft?
The IAF has deployed a variety of assets to search for the missing aircraft. These include the C-130J aircraft, SU-30MKI fighter aircraft, P8i long-range reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy, Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), MI-17 helicopters and Cheetah helicopters. The P8i and SU-30 have power radars which can help look deep inside the thickly forested areas where the AN-32 may have crashed. The P8i has Synthetic Aperture Radar and Electro-Optical and Infra-Red (EO & IR) sensors. Satellite photography is also being used to find out the location of the aircraft. Satellites such as CARTOSAT and RISAT are also taking photographs of the areas. The IAF has also deployed UAVs in the area and foot patrols of the Army, Assam Rifles and the Arunachal police have also been conducting search operations with the help of local villagers. The IAF has also announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for any information on the missing AN-32.
Total assets deployed include four MI-17 helicopters, three ALH (two of Army, one of IAF), 2 SU-30 MKI, One C-130 J, two Cheetah helicopters, one UAV and one P8I of the Navy.
Why hasn’t IAF AN-32 aircraft been located till now?
Two factors have been hampering the efforts of the IAF to find the location of the plane which is likely to have crashed. There are thick jungles in the area which have swallowed an aircraft going back to the Second World War which crashed while undertaking sorties from West Bengal to China. Their wreckage is still being discovered in regular intervals.
The weather too has been playing truant and frequent spells of rain and thick cloud cover over the search area is also hampering the search effort.
Search and Rescue (SAR) teams have not been able to fly for as long a time in the areas which they would like to search in greater detail because of vagaries of weather. However, SAR sorties have been undertaken by C-130J aircraft and SU-30 during the night also using their radars to locate the plane. However, these efforts have not paid result until now.
Why has the AN-32 not given out any emergency signal?
The emergency beacon which is supposed to give out the location of the aircraft in the event of the crash has not worked in this instance.
There has not been any distress signal which has emanated from the AN-32 which could have helped point out the place where it may have crashed. It is being reported that the IAF was in the process of upgrading the technology of the beacons which are installed in the cargo compartment of the AN-32 but there are only 40 aircraft which have been upgraded with newer beacons.
The outdated beacon has not performed to the satisfactory level as a result of which it has been difficult to ascertain the location of the aircraft.
(The copy was filed before IAF located the wreckage of the missing An-32 in Arunachal Pradesh. Read more about the latest update here)