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IAF deploys more aircraft in search for missing AN-32, Cheetah to scour inaccessible terrain

The IAF pressed into service Cheetah helicopters, which are easily manoeuvrable and can easily access areas unreachable by larger aircraft or ground parties.

SNS | New Delhi |

The search for the missing IAF AN-32 transport aircraft continued through the fourth day on Thursday as more assets comprising rescue aircraft and ground forces scoured an expanded area of search.

The IAF pressed into service Cheetah helicopters, which are easily manoeuvrable and can easily access areas unreachable by larger aircraft or ground parties.

“#IAF Missing AN-32 search continues. The area of search has been expanded and more assets including smaller and more manoeuvrable helicopters like cheetah have been included in the rescue mission so as to approach areas inaccessible by bigger helicopters or individuals on foot,” the IAF said in a statement.

The force said that local weather in the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh affected operations by IAF and Indian Army helicopters.

“Search by IAF & Indian Army helicopters was adversely affected by localised weather in the valleys. All leads from airborne sensors including by Indian Navy being closely assessed and followed-up with search by aircraft and ground teams. The search will continue through the night,” the statement read.

Earlier today, Indian Army deployed its UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to search for the missing transport aircraft.

IAF’s Mi-17 choppers and other aircraft were also being used for the operation, after they were pulled out on Wednesday night due to low visibility. Two Sukhois and C-130Js, however, carried out night missions to locate the missing aircraft.

According to reports, tribal villagers of Arunachal Pradesh’s Molo village saw “thick black smoke” rising from a mountain on Monday – the day the aircraft lost contact with ground staff.

“State police force along with Army & Air force has been mobilized to locate the missing @IAF_MCC AN-32 Aircraft that was bound for Mechuka on Monday. The search operation covering four district spread around 2500 sqkm is being intensified. Praying for success of search operation,” Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu said today.

“Have asked DCs of four districts- Siang, West Siang, Lower Siang & Shi-Yomi to intensify search operation and also appealed the villagers of adjoining areas falling in the probable route of the aircraft to provide any sort of information on missing aircraft AN-32,” he added.

 

Reports say that three search parties were trekking to various possible locations to look for the aircraft.

The search area includes the thickly forested routes between Assam’s Jorhat and Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

On Wednesday, two SU-30s along with two C-130J, two Mi17 helicopters and two Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) including one from the Army were deployed to locate the aircraft.

A P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaisance aircraft of the Indian Navy was available to join the search and rescue operation.

The AN-32 aircraft went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday after taking off from Assam.

The transport aircraft was flying from Jorhat to the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground. Mechuka is a small town in Arunachal’s West Siang district bordering China.

Of the 13 personnel, seven are officers and the rest air warriors.

This is the second disappearance of an IAF AN-32 aircraft. In July 2016, an AN-32 aircraft went missing over the Bay of Bengal with 29 people on board while on its way to Port Blair from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai.

Despite a massive search operation – India’s largest search operation for a missing plane over the sea – involving the ships and aircraft of Indian Navy and the IAF and scanning of 2,17,800 square nautical miles of Bay and Bengal, the aircraft could not be found.

After months of search, the rescue operation was called off. The government informed the then Lok Sabha that there were no survivors on board the aircraft.