3 forces, 1 search operation; IAF intensifies search for AN-32 aircraft by pulling in Army and Navy

Despite inclement weather conditions in the mountainous Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh, the massive day-night search for AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force continues on its fourth day. The aircraft with 13 people on board lost contact on Monday afternoon after taking off from Johrat in Assam.

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Informing on the latest updates, IAF spokesperson Group Capt. Anupam Banerjee said the search and rescue operation has been intensified and expanded despite challenges being posed by vegetation, inhospitable terrain and poor weather in the area. He said all leads from airborne sensors are being closely assessed and being followed-up with search by aircraft and ground teams. However, supported by Indian Army, Indian Navy, police and state administration, the search efforts by ground teams and airborne sensors will continue through the night.

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Additional assets including two Sukhoi-30 aircraft were deployed on the third day to locate the missing plane apart from the fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and two Mi-17 and two ALH helicopters, IAF sources said. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police. The two Sukhoi-30 and two C-130J aircraft will carry out night missions.

The IAF has been regularly updating the families of all air-warriors on board the aircraft about the rescue operation. Military officials said rescuers have not received any signal from the emergency locator beacon in the missing plane, adding there is a possibility that the device may not have been functional. They said the plane that went missing is yet to be upgraded with latest avionics and radars, though some of the AN-32 were strengthened with advanced systems.

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The Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft was deployed on Tuesday as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation. IAF officials said ISRO’s Cartosat and RISAT satellites are taking images of the area around Menchuka to help the rescuers find the plane. They said the area has thick vegetation and difficult terrain which are making the rescue operation challenging.

The IAF on Monday said the aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Menchuka advance landing ground, and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 pm. A total of eight aircrew and five passengers were on board the aircraft.


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