The search for the missing IAF AN-32 entered the fourth day today with both air and ground patrols busy searching for the aircraft.

The Indian Army deployed its UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to search for the missing transport aircraft over Arunachal Pradesh-Assam. IAF’s Mi-17 choppers and other aircraft are also being used for the operation.

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.

Mi-17s and ALH helicopters were pressed into service on Thursday morning once more to trace the Russian-origin transporter along the thickly forested routes between Assam’s Jorhat and Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

The search and rescue operation by helicopters for the missing IAF AN-32 aircraft were called off on Wednesday night due to low light.

Two Sukhois and C-130Js, however, carried out night missions to locate the missing aircraft.

The IAF said on Wednesday that despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and poor weather, the search has been expanded.

Search by IAF and Indian Army helicopters was adversely affected by weather during the day. However, the search efforts by ground teams and airborne sensors continued through the night supported by Indian Army, Indian Navy, Police and State Administration.

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.

Reports say that the P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaisance aircraft of the Indian Navy, which took off from INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu to join the search and rescue operation on Tuesday, was put on standby and shall be deployed if requested by the Air Force.

The 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.