The search operations for the missing Indian Air Force AN-32 aircraft entered its fourth day on Thursday with no information or clue about the plane. The AN-32 lost contact with the ground station at around 1 pm on Monday with 13 people, eight crew members and five armed forces personnel onboard.
The aircraft, which took off from Assam’s Jorhat at 12.25 pm, was scheduled to arrive at the Mechuka Advance Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh’s in West Siang District at 1:30 pm.
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Indian Navy’s Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft P8i, along with the Indian Army and ISRO are thoroughly conducting a massive search operation to locate the missing aircraft.
Here’s what has happened till now:
IAF conducts search operation
The Indian Air Force started with the search operations as soon as the AN-32 aircraft lost signals with the ground station. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was apprised on the situation and the steps taken by the IAF in the search operations. Singh tweeted, “Spoke to Vice Chief of @IAF_MCC, Air Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria regarding the missing IAF AN-32 Aircraft which is overdue for some hours. He has apprised me of the steps taken by the IAF to find the missing aircraft. I pray for the safety of all passengers on board.”
IAF, in a statement, said, “Efforts are on to establish the whereabouts of the aircraft. C-130J, AN-32 and Mi-17 of IAF and Indian Army ALH helicopter launched to locate the missing aircraft. Some reports of possible location of the crash site were received, however, no wreckage has been sighted so far. IAF is coordinating with the Indian Army, various government and civil agencies to locate the missing aircraft. Search operations will continue from the air and by ground parties of Indian Army through the night.”
No signs of wreckage
IAF sources said that no signs of wreckage could be located so far in the search operations. Air Force had deployed a package of Sukho, Mi-17 helicopters, C-130, along with ground patrols so far to assist with the search and rescue operations in the north-east region. IAF PRO Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said, “Some ground reports were received on possible location of a crash site. Helicopters were routed to the location. However, no wreckage has been sighted so far.”
Indian Navy, Indian Army, ISRO join IAF’s search operation
A day after the AN-32 aircraft with 13 people onboard went missing and no wreckage could be traced, the Indian Navy, Indian Army, and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) joined the Indian Air Force to search for the missing plane. The Indian Navy is using the P8i aircraft, which has a very powerful Synthetic Aperture Radar, in the search and rescue operations. Indian Navy’s satellites like RISAT, and aircraft equipped with multiple sensors also joined in the operations. ISRO deployed two of its satellites – CARTOSAT and RISAT – to capture images of the area.
Group Captain Anupam Banerjee said, “ISRO satellites are also being used for photographing this area which will be analysed & used for further search operation. Next of kin of all the missing personnel have been informed about the search effort. We are in constant touch with them.It’s a little difficult terrain to carry out search op because there’s thick vegetation. It is a difficult op however we are using all our means, the electronic means, the electro-optical means. After analysing this we will do the visual lookout. Today P-8I aircraft of Navy also joined in search op. Army personnel are doing ground search&joined in with ALH Helicopter. Navy joined at P-8I. Local police&admn are helping Air Force to locate the aircraft.”
Family of late officer questions IAF’s ageing fleet
62-year-old Rajendra Barpatte, father of Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte, says that he has still not received satisfactory answers to the many questions he had about the mishap and the ageing fleet of Russia-made planes, which were inducted in the Air Force in the 1980s. Flight Lieutenant Kunal, whose family is from Nigdi in Pimpri Chinchwad area, was a navigating officer with the 33 Squadron of the IAF, a transport squadron under the Southern Air Command, who was among the 29 people on board an AN-32 aircraft that went missing over the Bay of Bengal in July 2016. For the family members of Flight Lieutenant Kunal, the search for IAF’s AN-32 aircraft has once again raised some pertinent questions which have remained unanswered for three years.
IAF intensifies efforts
The Indian Air Force on Wednesday intensified the search operations and said that operations will continue throughout the night. “IAF has intensified efforts to locate the missing AN-32. Despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain & poor weather,the search has been expanded.All leads from airborne sensors are being closely assessed and followed-up with search by aircraft & ground teams. Search by IAF and Indian Army helicopters was adversely affected by weather during the day today. However, supported by Indian Army, Indian Navy, Police and State Administration the search efforts by ground teams and airborne sensors will continue through the night,” IAF’s tweet read.
Arunachal villagers saw smoke in mountain on route
Residents of an Arunachal Pradesh village Thursday said they had seen thick black smoke billowing from a mountain on Monday, the day an Indian Air Force aircraft carrying 13 people went missing, prompting authorities to verify the claim. Three people from Tumbin village said that on Monday afternoon they had seen thick black smoke originating from a mountain towards Molo village in Siang district. “This is being verified,” Director General of Police S B K Sing informed the CMO, reported news agency PTI.