100 hours on, IAF intensifies search ops to trace missing AN-32 aircraft

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday said it has intensified the search operation to trace the AN-32 aircraft that has gone missing in Arunachal Pradesh after taking off from Assam’s Jorhat, and has deployed more assets and roped in the local civic and police agencies in its effort.

The Russian-made aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm on Monday for the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground. Its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm.

A total of eight aircrew and five passengers were on board the aircraft.

All the three armed forces have deployed their assets to trace the aircraft.

However, the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation has met with little success so far due to the difficult terrain and rough weather.

According to sources, the rescuers have not received any signal from the emergency locator beacon in the missing plane and there is a possibility that the device may not have been functional.

They said the IAF had deployed four Mi-17 helicopters, three advanced light helicopters, of which two belonged to the Army, two Sukhoi-30 aircraft, one C-130 transporter aircraft and one Unmanned Aerial Vehicle of the Army.

Two Cheetah helicopters will also join the search operations on Friday, the sources said.

“The IAF has further intensified and expanded search for the missing AN-32. Fighter aircraft, C130, helicopters, aircraft carrying specialised sensors, satellites and all possible civil, police and local administrative agencies have further expanded search based on human and sensor inputs,” the Air Force said in a statement.

“The search by parties on foot and night-capable aircraft will continue through the night and satellite data is being analysed regularly,” it added.

The Indian Navy’s P-8i aircraft was deployed on Tuesday as it had electro-optical and infra-red sensors, which could be helpful in the search operation.

“P-8i, aircraft of Indian Navy will again fly a sortie tomorrow (Friday) morning as the weather is likely to improve slightly,” the statement said.

IAF officials said the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Cartosat and RISAT satellites were capturing images of the area around Mechuka to help the rescuers find the plane.

“The IAF remains committed to continued efforts to locate the aircraft and its brave air warriors. The IAF has flown more than 100 hours in search operations. No effort is being spared to locate the missing aircraft,” the statement added.