Aircraft Carrying 13 People Still Missing; Navy, ISRO, Army Join Hands With IAF For Search And Rescue
An Indian Air Force AN-32 aircraft, which took off from Jorhat in Assam on June 3 with 13 people onboard has gone missing near Mechuka in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Following the incident, IAF has launched a massive search operation, to find the wreckage of the missing aircraft. The Navy, along with The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has lent a helping hand for the search operation.
‘An-32’ Goes Missing
The Antonov An-32 aircraft took off at 12:27 pm from Assam and was expected to reach the Mechuka Advance Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh by 1:17 pm, it lost contact at 1 pm with the ground station. The four-decade-old aircraft, which is a tactical transport aircraft used extensively by the IAF was carrying eight crew members, including six officers led by a Wind Commander along with five passengers.
The terrain under the An-32’s route is mountainous and densely forested. The landings in the Mechuka airstrip are tough due to harsh weather and inhospitable landscape. The Mechuka airstrip is closest landing ground to the India-China border nearing the McMohan line.
The newly elected defence minister- Rajnath Singh who was in Siachen for a visit was apprised about the incident and steps taken under IAF to locate the missing aircraft. Singh on his Twitter account wrote that he prays for the safety of all the passengers present in the plane.
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.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 3, 2019
Search and Rescue Operation On
After the IAF failed to establish contact with the aircraft and it did not arrive at its destination, the IAF launched a major search operation to locate the remains of Soviet-designed aircraft.
The IAF has used most of its resources, which includes C-130J, AN-32, A Sukhoi-30MKl, and Mi-17 and ALH helicopter to find the missing aircraft. The on-ground search operation is being carried out by the Indian Army and IAF officials. The search operation carried on throughout the night.
24 hours since the aircraft went missing, the Indian Navy lent a helping hand to the IAF. Navy’s Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft P8i joined the search operation. The P8i will utilise its Electro-Optical and Infra-Red (EO & IR) sensors in the dense forest areas between Jorhat and Mechuka.
The ISRO satellites have been pressed into action for the search and rescue operation.
An IAF Spokesperson on June 4 said, “The Search and Rescue (SAR) has resumed as the weather clears up. Two Mi17s and one ALH has already been deployed with the ground party of the Army and the ITBP. More assets may be deployed.”
Three years back in 2016, an An-32 Aircraft disappeared while flying over the Bay Bengal and heading for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The search operation launched to find the missing aircraft became the most extensive search operation over the sea. The 29 people in the aircraft were presumed dead in an accident.