The search and rescue operation by helicopters for the missing IAF AN-32 aircraft were called off on Wednesday night due to low light and will resume on Thursday morning, the IAF said.
Two Sukhois and C-130Js will, however, be carrying out night missions to locate the missing aircraft.
Earlier today, the IAF intensified efforts to locate aircraft which went missing on Monday with 13 personnel on board.
The IAF said that despite challenges posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and 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,” the IAF said.
Search by IAF and Indian Army helicopters was adversely affected by weather during the day today. However, the search efforts by ground teams and airborne sensors will continue 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.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Air Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria, the Vice Chief of the Air Staff, immediately after the disappearance of the aircraft on Monday.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter.
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.